First published in 1939, the original blurb reads: We have learned much lately concerning theories of laughter, yet laughter is only what we do about comedy. What is comedy itself?
In this work the history of comic instances is combed in the search for the truth about comedy. Today, when laughter is stifled in so many countries, an exposition of comedy shows it to have a universal and necessary character. Comedy, as its natures reveals, is one criterion of the state of human culture; it is highly contemporary and requires freedom – but freedom for adventure, not for routine.
After a chapter devoted to the explanation of a logical theory of comedy, the modern comedians are examined, and the humour of every one, from the Marx Brothers to surrealism, from Gertrude Stein to Mickey Mouse, from James Joyce to Charlie Chaplin, is shown to be a constant, inherent in the same set of unchanging conditions.
Table of Contents
Preface. Part I: A Survey of the History of Comedy 1. Ancient Comedy 2. Archaic Greek Comedy 3. Classical Greek Comedy 4. Roman Comedy 5. Mediaeval Comedy 6. Renaissance Comedy 7. Seventeenth-Century Comedy 8. Eighteenth-Century Comedy 9. Nineteenth-Century Comedy Part II: Some Classical Theories of Comedy 1. Realistic Theory: Plato 2. Realistic Theory: Aristotle 3. Later Greek Commentators: The Tractatus Coislinianus, Jamblichus and Proclus 4. Roman Commentators: Cicero and Quintilian 5. Comedy in Transition: Tzetzes and Vico 6. Nominalistic Theory: Hobbes 7. Gottsched and Schlegel 8. Kant, Spencer, Schopenhauer, Hazlitt 9. Meredith and the Genteel Tradition 10. Everett and Psychology Part III: Criticism of Modern Theories of Comedy 1. The Subjective-Metaphysical: Bergson 2. The Subjective-Metaphysical: Croce, Carritt 3. The Subjective-Literary: Jankélévitch, Eastman, Leacock 4. The Subjective-Literary: Menon, Seward, Gregory 5. The Psychoanalytic: Freud 6. The Physiological: Dumas, Bechterev, Crile 7. The Logical: Zuver, Graves Part IV: The Meaning of Comedy 1. Apology 2. The Aesthetic Background 3. What is Comedy? 4. The Logic of Art 5. Psychological Aspects 6. Perspective Aspects 7. Comedy and Tragedy 8. Kinds of Comedy 9. The Divine Comedy Part V: Illustrations from Modern Comedians 1. In Praise of the Comedian 2. The Comedy of Everyday Life: The Marx Brothers 3. The Comedy of Myth: James Joyce 4. The Comedy of Literature: Gertrude Stein 5. The Human Comedy: Charlie Chaplin 6. The Comedy of Adventure: "Prince" Romanoff 7. The Comedy of History: Sellar and Yeatman 8. The Comedy of Art: Surrealism 9. The Popular Comedy: Idols of the Marketplace 10. Conclusion. Appendix. Index.