From Thomas Hobbes' fear of the power of laughter to the compulsory, packaged "fun" of the contemporary mass media, Billig takes the reader on a stimulating tour of the strange world of humour. Both a significant work of scholarship and a novel contribution to the understanding of the humourous, this is a seriously engaging book' - David Inglis, University of Aberdeen This delightful book tackles the prevailing assumption that laughter and humour are inherently good. In developing a critique of humour the author proposes a social theory that places humour - in the form of ridicule - as central to social life. Billig argues that all cultures use ridicule as a disciplinary means to uphold norms of conduct and conventions of meaning. Historically, theories of humour reflect wider visions of politics, morality and aesthetics. For example, Bergson argued that humour contains an element of cruelty while Freud suggested that we deceive ourselves about the true nature of our laughter. Billig discusses these and other theories, while using the topic of humour to throw light on the perennial social problems of regulation, control and emancipation.

Incongruity Theories and Gentlemanly Laughter

Incongruity theories and gentlemanly laughter

Incongruity theories represent the second major tradition for understanding humour. The basic approach was developed in the eighteenth century as a reaction against Hobbes's view of laughter. Instead of seeking the origins of laughter within the motives of the person who laughs, incongruity theories have sought to identify those incongruous features of the world that provoke laughter. In doing this, the theory took a decisive step towards rescuing laughter from suspicion and laying the foundations for modern approaches to studying humour. Indeed, it has been claimed that incongruity theories in one form or another continue to dominate psychological research into humour (Raskin, 1985). Peter Berger comments that ‘there is widespread agreement that a sense of humour ...

  • Loading...
locked icon

Sign in to access this content

Get a 30 day FREE TRIAL

  • Watch videos from a variety of sources bringing classroom topics to life
  • Read modern, diverse business cases
  • Explore hundreds of books and reference titles