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The main focal point of the study is the relationship between representations of humour, military violence, and power. The purpose of the study is to investigate whether the justifications of violence and power structures constructed by the narratives are confirmed or questioned by the use of humour and laughter. Furthermore, the study examines the role of humour and laughter in the construction of gender roles, with a concentration on soldier masculinity. The analysis establishes narrative conventions in the representation of humour and laughter that are exhibited by all selected literary works about the First World War that played an important role in the in the socio-political life of the Weimar Republic, regardless of their ideological assignment.

Humour and war: two mutually exclusive phenomena? Outline of humour research and terminology Humour and laughter 12 1. Terminology '. Theories of humour and laughter: a short survey 17 1. Social aspects of humour: theoretical concerns. The publication of Ln Stahlgewittern. Ernst Junger's work on the different text versions, revisions and extensions of his First'World War diaries 42 2. The reception of Walter Bloem's work. Vormarsch: The forgotten First World War memoirs 79 3. The short stories about the First World War from The publication and early reception of Der Streit um den Sergeanten Grischa 4.

The short story Die Quittung: A joke with a surprising outcome iv 4. Humour and laughter in the novel Im Westen nichts Neues 5. First of all, I would like to thank my supervisor, Professor Gaby Pailer, for her exceptional support and guidance in all aspects of writing this dissertation, for giving me the freedom to pursue my own funny ideas within the workshop project Gender-Laughter-Media while taking them very seriously, and for showing confidence in my research. I am likewise very indebted to Professors Steven Taubeneck and Geoffrey Winthrop-Young for their insightful comments and for challenging me to refine and clarify my thoughts.

I would also like to thank the faculty and staff members in the Department of Central, Eastern, and Northern European Studies at the University of British Columbia, for their support and help over the years. Very special thanks go to Raluca. This dissertation has been a long journey, and it would not have been possible at all without her. The first question that many of the readers of this study will probably ask looking at its title is: is there anything at all funny about the First World War? The connection between humour and the topic of the war may appear unlikely, for we are used to regard the conflict of as grim and serious, one of the lowest points in 20th-century history.

Still, is there no,place for humour in it? And if there is, of what nature is that humour?

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Though the first question may seem more baffling initially, i f we agree—and I hope most readers will in the course of this study—that some scenes in the narrations about the Great War are able to evoke humorous responses, it is the second question that makes things complicated. How do we come to an understanding about which literary images have the same appeal to all of us: which make us laugh, smile, or express our amusement in any other form?

And will the same scenes still be funny when we talk in detail about why they are funny? Doesn't dissecting them kill the joy? These are just some basic difficulties I encountered while investigating the functions of humour and laughter in German narratives about the First World War. The main reason for the problems is the ephemeral and highly subjective character of humour: the essence of any humorous situation is very difficult to define, and, when defined, loses a lot of its attractiveness.

As the American author and prose stylist Elwyn Brooks White summed up the investigative effort in his essay "Some Remarks on Humour": "Humour can be dissected as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind" Yet despite this discouraging premise, humour and laughter as subjects of study have attracted scholars and writers for 2 centuries and provoked countless attempts to create theories about why people find something funny and what the nature of humour and laughter is.

Especially since the late s, we can observe a growing interest in humour and laughter in scholarly literature, with significant contributions in the fields of psychology, medicine, linguistics, philosophy, and literary criticism. The emerging interest in humour can be interpreted as a sign of appreciation of the important role that this phenomenon plays in human life—in all aspects of human life, including war. In this study, I would like to concentrate on the incongruity between the topics of humour, laughter, and war in First World War German literature.

My selection of the events of the Great War as the content of the literary depictions is not coincidental. The First World War, with its disregard for individual life on the battlefield and its employment of technology to a degree never experienced in military history before, pushed the limits of the imaginable with the uncovering of the massive character of death and destruction. As Modris Eksteins has put it in the title of his study about the Great War, the shock of this war constitutes the "birth of the modern age.

The dominance of death and suffering in their—now popular—images of the war is the main reason why the occurrences of humour in the context of the First World War may seem incongruous, perhaps even shocking. Yet this is precisely what interests me: the controversial area where the juxtapositions of apparently conflicting elements, such as episodes characterized as funny in a setting dominated by extreme violence and death, provoke questions about their purpose and their functional placement in the narration.

In order of procedure, I will first—excuse my joke provoked by the military context—choose my weapon from the wide arsenal of existing humour research. In section 1. I will discuss the relationship between and outline the main theories of humour and laughter along with most established existing taxonomies of the theories, concentrating on theories of humour and laughter based on incongruity and superiority. Incongruity and superiority, as the main components of those humorous situations commonly associated with inter-social relationships, are located in opposition to more individualistic factors playing a role in humour.

They interest me especially because I intend to focus on the social significance of humour and laughter and the impact both phenomena have on interpersonal interactions.

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The theoretical concerns emerging from the social applications of humour and laughter will also be discussed here. My study focuses on selected diaries, novels, and short stories based on autobiographical experiences written by German authors during the Great War and in the Weimar era The especially rich artistic resonance of the war in German literature derives doubtlessly from the fact that Germany was one of the main participants in a conflict that affected, directly or indirectly, the majority of its population.

The same can be said, however, about British or French first-hand accounts of the war. What I find 4 especially significant in the context of the literary processing of the war experience in Germany is the early reception of the war works and their instrumentalization in contemporaneous power struggles that, in return, influenced the works' positioning within the literary discourse. The problem of the interpretation of the Great War— reflected mainly in the German literary representations of the conflict—grew into a dividing issue between the antidemocratic conservative militarist groups and the pacifist left-wing intellectuals and politicians of the time.

This will be illustrated in section 1. In chapters 2 to 5, which constitute the main analytical part of my study, I will take a closer look at material selected from the wide range of war literature published between and The deciding factor in the selection of the material was the crucial role played by soldier diaries, autobiographical novels and short stories in the socio-political life of Weimar Germany between and My rationales for selecting the four works and for placing them in this particular order are the following: first, the common subject of the works is the First World War.

Second, the literary material I selected for the purpose of my study allows me to reflect both main directions in the narrative interpretation of the war experience: the glorification of the usefulness of the military actions for the development of German society right-wing literary and. The two most acclaimed and well-known representatives of the two directions frame the study: Ernst Junger and his In Stahlgewillern opens the analytical part of the study, and Erich Maria Remarque's Im Westen nichts Neues, the most popular German First World War narration, which has yielded a respectable number of parodies and travesties, concludes it.

Between the two poles of the political and literary landscape of the Weimar Republic I place Walter Bloem and his war memoir Vormarsch as an intriguing and almost completely forgotten voice of the older generation of conservative nationalists who participated in the war, and Der Streit um den Sergeanten Grischa, Arnold Zweig's successful novel debut that initiated the literary and political debate about the lost war and prepared the ground for the controversial reception of Remarque's novel. The selected works also represent a variety of literary forms and extra-literary circumstances that influenced their publication and success with the readers.

They include a first-hand account written as a diary and prepared for publication during the war Vormarsch ; a first-hand account that underwent a series of changes and editions and was published in book form directly after the war In Stahlgewittem ; fictional material of dramatic origin that was transformed into a novel a decade after first being written Der Streit um den 6 Sergeanten Grischa ; and a fictional text that appeared as an autobiographical novel preceded by a skilfully crafted marketing campaign Im Westen nichts Neues. A l l the selected works in my study became—although to different degrees of intensity—objects of the debates and struggles of antagonistic social and political movements in Weimar Germany and were used to support different ideological positions within the Republic.

Therefore, the goal of my study is to investigate whether the humour and laughter present in the narratives also contributed to the development of the images of war that dominated the war discourse and post-war cultural and socio-political debates in Germany. I would like to focus on the relationship between representations of military violence, power, and humour, in order to determine whether the power structures constructed by the narratives are confirmed or questioned by the use of humour and laughter. The most important questions are: first, how are humour and laughter presented in the discussed works?

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Here, I will use close textual analysis and focus on the representation of humour; my goal is to show in what narrative situations humour and laughter are mentioned and to search for a pattern in the introduction of humorous episodes and laughter scenes in the narrations. This will allow me to establish the narrative conventions in the representation of humour and laughter, conventions exhibited by all selected works about the First World War, regardless of their ideological assignment.

Second, I will concentrate on the question of whether humour and laughter confirm or contradict other rhetorical means of the narratives, means that have been emphasized and instrumentalized in the post-war discussion about the war and that have helped place the specific works along with its authors in the "pro-war" or "anti-war" category. I believe that the results of my investigation will provide a basis for reconsidering such classifications based on conventional reception history: what the 7 soldiers in the narrations are laughing about provides important yet mostly overlooked clues that help define the narrators' positions towards individual and structural violence, towards the question of the meaning of war, and towards the.

Analysed from this perspective, the texts reveal that the trenches dug between the pacifist and militarist camps in the Weimar Republic are shallower than they appear. In order to achieve the goals described above, I will focus on the social relationships in the narrations in order to show how they are determined, expressed, and influenced by humour and laughter.

Of special interest are the social interactions between soldiers in the military unit, between soldiers of the same rank, and between soldiers and their commanders. The hierarchical structure of the military allows me to analyse the relations among high-status soldiers who direct laughter towards other high-rank soldiers, low-status soldiers laughing at other soldiers their commanders and comrades , high-status soldiers laughing at soldiers who receive, orders from them, and among low-status soldiers who are laughed at by others.

I will show whether the power structures within the closed and hierarchical group of the front military unit constituted by direct and structured violence manifested, for example, in the form of orders, military drills, penalties, and rules are confirmed or questioned by the use of humour" and laughter. The question of whether the humour and laughter used by members of the social group have a corrective, subversive, or inversive character and the influencing factors for this character will also be discussed. In addition, I will describe the soldiers' contacts with their family and friends who do not face the front life and are not able to imagine the extensive use of military technology and massive destruction during the "material battles" of the First World War.

I will consider the relationships between different generations fathers and sons and pose the question of how they use humour to start, re-build, or modify their relationship or to avoid a closer connection. I will further look at another type of intragroup relationship: the social interactions of the German soldiers with the enemy members of the French, Russian, and English armies , in which laughter and humour are also applied to accomplish certain goals.

Here, I will investigate in detail the function of humour and laughter in the reinforcement of national and racial stereotypes. Recognizing the military as a social structure, I will pay special attention both to esteeming inoffensive and disparaging aggressive humour—explained in the theoretical part, of this chapter—and investigate the possible functions they play in establishing and maintaining the relationships within the social group of the military. If German lexemes associated with the use of humour such as "komisch," "lustig," "Komik," "witzig," "Witz," "spaflig," "possenhaft,".

Lexemes describing the physical activity of laughter such as "lachen," "grinsen," "lacheln," "schmunzeln," "kichern," "wiehern," "briillen," etc. I will analyse the communication patterns between the participants in the established humorous relationship in order to determine the character of humour and its functions in the given relationship and setting. Although there are a number of First World War literary representations authored by German women writers,2 my selection is limited to works by male authors.

The reasons for the selection of war works in regard to. First, during the First World War, the German army was a world dominated by males; women were almost completely excluded from military service in the first line. For that reason, the overwhelming majority of autobiographical texts authored by front soldiers that appeared on the market during and after the war were written by men. Second, assuming that the use of humour and laughter is gendered,3 the "male" humour and laughter should demonstrate certain patterns in the homosocial group of the German army.

The most analyses are limited, however, to poems and fictional works. For the personal narratives by non-German women authors, see also Margaret R. My work is an attempt to connect social theories of humour and laughter with the myths of soldier masculinity and of the "band of brothers"—manifestations of male solidarity, affirmation of heroism, physical strength, sexual potential, and dominant and hostile behaviour towards women, who, in this discourse, are represented by the absent beloved the soldiers fantasize about and "occasional" women the soldiers meet for example, during visits in occupied towns and villages, home visits, hospital stays.

In this context, my study offers interpretations of sexually aggressive jokes and puns, jokes about the "feminized" "womanish" and "weak" enemy, along with comments about relationships between men and women which are received presented by the narrator as funny and humorous. I will take a closer look at how the absence of actual women in the military unit is compensated for and to what extent the typical gender roles are modified or subverted by humorous uses of communication patterns. The role played by soldiers, defined as "masculine," has a performative character and consists of conventions that are constantly repeated, imitated 5 To the most conclusive research projects theorizing masculinities belong the studies linking combat, the military, and violence with masculinity and investigating the development of militant masculinity models in national societies.

Nationalism, according to Benedict Anderson and Ernest Gellner, is a set of cultural constructions. According to that concept, George Mosse in Das Bild des Marines: Zur Konstruktion der modernen Mdnnlichkeit describes militant masculinity as a centerpiece of all varieties of nationalist movements.

The "geobody of the nation" the image of the homeland as a female body is a gendered entity, and national narratives often define the duties of men and women in a dichotomous, gendered way. The specialized studies that investigate the relation between masculinity, combat, and their cultural representations include Klaus Theweleit's Mdnnerphantasien , or David Morgan's Theater of War: Combat, the Military, and Masculinities I will examine these conventions, and the way they are impersonated, according to the concept of performativity of gender.

This means that I do not intend to look for humour and laughter in places where their use has not been described in the narrative or implied by the genre of the work. I believe that, the attempts to answer the question of whether the present reader would judge the depicted scenes as humorous or funny does not yield any productive results that can be used in further theoretical investigation of humour. The reason is simple: the factors that contribute to humour production depend on a plethora of individual differences which defy all survey attempts.

Depending, for example, on the individual's life experience, age, gender, race, education, and literary preferences, the social configuration the individual is entering, the repetitive exposure to the scene, and other factors, the reader can find a scene funny that no other reader of the same text would perceive in a similar way.

What's more: the same reader may not find the scene funny in a different setting, for example while reading it for a second time, in a different mood or disposition, or in the presence of another person. In short, the question of whether there is something that never ceases 6 I am following the concept of performativity of gender proposed by Judith Butler. Outline of humour research and terminology 1. Humour and laughter No attempt to provide a comprehensive theory of humour—that would account for every occurrence of and condition for a humorous situation—has been able to satisfy all scholars involved in humour research.

Existing theories of humour are limited to particular disciplines: for instance, their authors aspire to define humour within the areas of medicine, psychology, literature, visual arts, philosophy, sociology, and anthropology, while a more interdisciplinary approach is needed. The scholars' problems with analysing humour emerge already with the attempt to create a definition of humour that would encompass the complexity of the phenomenon, explain the enormously broad spectrum of humour appearances, and satisfy all investigators of humour who try to capture the multiple conditions under which humour can be observed.

The theorists are therefore divided over the causes, mechanisms, and functions of humour and often offer explanations that are very effective in accounting for certain aspects of humour while completely disregarding others. The position in humour research of another phenomenon related to humour, laughter, is also disputed. Laughter, which is constituted by a series of physiological reflexes, such as clonic spasms of the diaphragm and face muscle contractions, is often 7 See "The Funniest Joke in the World," Monty Python's Flying Circus: Episode 1, dir.

Graham Chapman, perf. A close relationship between humour and laughter is commonly asserted both in general assumptions about the nature of humour and in the specialized literature on the subject. Laughter is interpreted as a behavioral pattern typical for but not limited to human beings that can be observed in the early stages of physical, physiological, and behavioral development Washburn , Ambrose Many scholars assume that laughter as a a typical reaction to humorous situations is universal across cultures.

In the most of the literature about humour in the 20 t h century, however, humour and laughter are perceived as two different phenomena not necessarily complementary to each other: observations of human behavior during the First and Second World Wars have made clear that non-humorous situations can also induce laughter, especially under conditions of extreme stress and conflicting impulses. Other factors are also in play. According to David H. Munro's study Argument of Laughter , the most frequent non-humorous triggers of laughter include: tickling, laughing gas N0 2 , nervousness, relief after a strain, release from restraint, the defense against abuse or peer pressure, the experience of stress or horror when the recipient "laughs it off , the expression of physical and emotional well-being, play, make-believe, and the winning of a contest or competition In general, laughter is seen as the overt but not as the sole expression of humour and is not limited to humorous situations.

Laughter is a response to humour on the level of psychological reflexes and is described as a chain of physiological processes. Some recent studies still neglect the fact that humour and laughter may be different phenomena, for instance Neil Schaeffer's The Art of Laughter , where the difference between humour and laughter is not marked, though the distinction between humour and laughter is currently the most dominant tendency in humour research and is supported by experimental studies.

Patricia Keith-Spiegel, in her theoretical overview of humour research "Early Conceptions of Humor: Varieties and Issues" , makes a clear distinction between humour and laughter and remarks rightly: "[I]f laughter were indeed an exact yardstick with which to measure humour experiences, we might have solved many of the riddles of humour long ago" In the most recent studies on humour, the division between humorous and non-humorous laughter is respected and problematized, for instance by Paul Lewis in Comic Effects , which criticizes sharply Schaeffer's theoretical approach and rejects the assumption that laughter is the only expression of humour Robert R.

Provine, in his sociological study Laughter: A Scientific Investigation , offers an overview of the research on laughter and argues that—contrary to the older notion of laughter—laughs and smiles are most often found in non-humorous social interactions and define the relations between the participants in the interactions. See also Robert R. Provine, "Laughter. Particularly the pathological, non-humorous variants of laughter have enjoyed the interest of neurologists, but very recently the appearances of laughter that is not associated with brain dysfunctions have also been investigated.

In my study, I acknowledge the distinction between humour and laughter described above and investigate the occurrences of joking interaction between the figures, the narrator's descriptions of subjectively experienced feeling that he calls "humour," and the depictions of laughter or smiling in the narrations, without assuming that all the occurrences result necessarily from amusement about an event, figure, or other element in the narrative. Terminology The definition of laughter as a chain of physiological processes and its separation from humour is an important step in providing more clarity to the field of humour research.

But what is actually the phenomenon called "humour"? Do we all use the word to describe the same occurrences? Outside of the discipline of clinical medicine, where 10 For information about current research in the field of medicine, see the article "Neural Correlates of Laughter and Humour" by Barbara Wild, Frank A. Rodden, Wolfgang Grodd, and Willibald Ruchoffers, which provides a detailed description of terminology and recent medical assumptions about laughter and humour: Barbara Wild, et al.

This is especially true in literary scholarship on humour and laughter. Although "humour" is the broadest and most commonly used term in the anglophone world to describe the phenomenon that may lead to laughter or other expressions of physical comfort and relaxation, there exist many synonymous terms that describe similar occurrences. In addition to the theoretical difficulties with the categorization of the appearances of humour, the dominant attitude towards humour is based on the assumption that there is a general consensus about what is "funny" and that we do not have to negotiate its definition.

This intuitive assessment of humour connected with the arbitrary use of terminology contributes even further to the confusion about the subject. Many partial synonyms for humorous occurrences are accounted for by Patricia Keith-Spiegel and in the analysis Humor and Society: Explorations in the Sociology of Humor by Marvin Koller Keith-Spiegel and Koller remark that besides the term "humour," most popular in the English language context are the words "funny," "wit," "comic," "comedy," "joke" and "jokingly," "satiric," "mirthful," "ridicule" and "ridiculous," "ludicrous," "laughable," "amusement" and "amusing.

Often two or more terms are used interchangeably and arbitrarily to describe the complex phenomenon. In the German literature on humour, the terms "Komodie," "das Komische," "Komik," and "Witz," to give just a few examples, are used to describe 11 See the contributions by K. Frederics, J. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science, Also Barbara Wild, et al. The discrepancies result from the different development of the scholarly discourses on humour and the divergences in the literary tradition of humorous genres.

Although I provide the English translation of passages from the original German texts, I recognize that the semantic compatibility of German and English words will vary, depending on the translator's interpretation of the particular German word describing a humorous occurrence including my own translation of works not yet published in English. In cases where this is particularly problematic, I refer to the German original text and the contextual use of a particular word or phrase as clues about the humorous character of the described interaction.

Theories of humour and laughter: a short survey Attempts to give a clear answer to the question of whether humour is a stimulus, a response, or a disposition, bring scholars into theoretical difficulties. Authors often offer explanations that are very effective in clarifying certain aspects of humour but overlook others. While many taxonomies of laughter have been produced, there is no specific theory of humour that would be generally accepted among humour scholars—humour can take many forms and can fulfill many different functions.

People exhibit vast individual differences with respect to their responsiveness to humour: while laughter is 12 See, for example, the use of the words "das Komische" and "die Komodie" in the prominent German scholarly works on humour: Hans Robert JauB, "Uber den Grand des Vergniigens am komischen Helden," Das Komische, ed.

Different characteristics of humour are considered and accented in various theories: they embrace the cognitive, physiological, psychodynamic, social, and. Thus, the number of theoretical approaches to humour is difficult to survey, and the theories of humour are classified differently depending on the various criteria used by the authors. Any scholar who wants to thematise humour in his or her research therefore faces the necessity of selecting the theoretical approach that would be most productive in reaching the goal of the particular study. My study does not attempt to specify what humour is and to explain its conditions, causes, and mechanisms, but rather to show how humour and laughter construct or contribute to the relationships between figures in First World War works.

For this reason, I will concentrate on those aspects of humour and laughter that serve the interests of group relationships and will interpret humour and laughter as social mechanisms with definite social functions. My aim is to present an analysis of the part played by humour and laughter in the social life of the military during the First World War, as depicted in narratives written during and after the War.

As the theoretical basis for the analysis of humour in works about the First World War, I will use elements of the sociological approach to humour, with a concentration on the functionalist perspective. The assumptions about the nature of humour that have been developed in literature usually concentrate on a few basic concepts that explain how a humorous situation occurs. The large number of theoretical attempts reflects the level of complexity of the problem. I will briefly describe the most popular and recent classifications of humour theories in order to provide the ground for the methodological basis of my study, 19 which emphasises only the social aspects of humor as the most productive for the purpose of my analysis.

In her above mentioned article, Patricia Keith-Spiegel recalls scholarly overviews of theories of humour created prior to the s. She divides the humour theories into eight major groups she collects over one hundred humour theories. The first group, biological, instinct, arid evolution theories—popular until the first half of the 20 t h century —interprets humour as a necessary biological function of living organisms. According to this view, the humour, function is "built into" the nervous system of living organisms and serves the purpose of homeostasis and adaptation to the ever-changing environment.

Scholars working within the biological paradigm equate humour and laughter with pre-lingual communication in primitive societies, where they are associated with good news for the community and signals of safety. See J. Superiority theories stress humour as the laughing person or group's manifestation of triumph over other people. Central to the humour experience of an individual or group is the conviction of being better than other people who, in the opinion of the laughing person or group, are uglier, less fortunate, or weaker in comparison and whose actions are regarded as foolish.

However, not all theorists who associate humour with superiority believe that laughter i. When a situation does not fulfill the expectations of the observer, deviates from the "normal" pattern to which he or she is accustomed, humour can occur although it has to be noted that not every incongruous situation is funny. To give an example from my own experience: one of the incongruous situations I perceived on several occasions while explaining the topic of this study was when my conversation partner exhibited astonishment about the possibility of humour in German literature.

The confrontation of the assumption that Germans do not have a sense of humour with my search for humour in German texts creates an incongruity that appeared funny to many an interlocutor. Early incongruity theories stress the importance of contrast, such as that between laughter and fear described by James Beattie, who remarks that "laughter arises from the view of two or more inconsistent, unsuitable, or incongruous parts or circumstances, considered as united in one complex object or assemblage, or as acquiring a sort of mutual relation from the peculiar manner in which the mind takes notice of them" According to incongruity theories, the observer of a humorous situation comprehends it either by interpolating the multiple inconsistent frames within the structure of the situation or by extrapolating from or referring back to background knowledge: The solution of the conflict—the comprehension that the connection between the contrasting elements is possible—results in laughter.

Another well-known theory of incongruity was suggested in the Kritik der Urteilskraft [Critique of Judgment] by Immanuel Kant, who gave one of the best-known definitions of laughter as a result of incongruity: "an affection arising from the sudden transformation of a strained expectation into nothing" The incongruity theory of laughter proposed by Kant also includes—as we can easily deduce—the element of surprise.

The group of surprise theories emphasizes 22 unexpectedness and shock as necessary though not necessarily sufficient for a humorous situation to take place.

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Like the incongruity theories, the surprise theories imply a breaking up of the routine course that the observer is following. However, the surprise theories also take into account the observer's adaptation to the repetition of the stimulus that unfolded the humorous reaction for the first time and explain the resistance to situations that have been funny before but are no longer when observed for two or more times. The main difference between the two groups is the treatment of the perception of incongruous ideas or situations.

Configurational theories emphasise the effect of the subjective "coming together" of elements that were previously disjointed, rather than the perception of the apparent disconnection between them. In a sense, configurational theories focus on conflict-solving and derive humour from the feeling of success in dealing with the problem. This group of theories is also connected closely with incongruity theories, but puts more stress on the emotions and feelings emerging from the humorous situation than on the perception of ideas or situations. Munro, in his Argument of Laughter, aptly describes the mixture of emotions: "We laugh whenever, on contemplating an object or a situation, we find opposite 19 See H.

The conflicting elements could include love mixed with hate and so, the German "Hassliebe" ["love-hate relationship"] would be an occasion to laugh , playful chaos mixed with seriousness, mania connected with depression. The relaxation is embedded in the physical act of laughing. Herbert Spencer was the first theoretician to state the decisive function of laughter—understood as muscular movements—in releasing the overload of nervous energy.

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Freud derived the discrepancy from his assumption that sexuality and aggression are strong and fundamental forces that are restrained in the process of socialization. Freud described the tendentious joke as an expression of inhibited tendencies that temporarily abolishes the social restrictions, builds a vent for aggression, and allows for the unloading of sexual tension. When the energy build-up in the psychic 21 See G. Anna Freud London: Imago Publishing, The purpose of classifications like the one by Keith-Spiegel—and also the purpose of my short summary above—is to bring more clarity to the tangled field of interconnected concepts about humour and laughter.

However, Keith-Spiegel's extensive and quite influential classification may in certain instances evoke the impression that the described theories are mutually exclusive and competitive. This is not the case by any means. These overviews, as well as the survey proposed recently by Herbert M. Lefcourt in his study Humor: The Psychology of Living Buoyantly , divide the considerations about humour into two or three main groups, with superiority and incongruity as the elements most commonly emphasised in humour perception.

In the analytical part of the study, I elaborate further on particular aspects of humour theories and the issues arising from them and concentrate on their application in specific narrative situations. Social aspects of humour: theoretical concerns Humour and its functions in various social relations only recently became the subject of sociological studies.

The reason for the relative lack of scholarly reflection was, according to Chris Powell and George E. Paton, the wide-spread view of humour as "an individualistic and spontaneous expression of sheer creativity," whose "social 25 structural and processual parameters" were deemed "much less tangible and hence not readily amenable to sociological conceptualisation and theorizing" xi. The recognition that humour does not belong exclusively to the realm of free will , but is, as many other phenomena, conditioned by social configurations and in turn influences social interactions, yielded many important sociological contributions to the field of humour research.

The sociology of humour concentrates on the use of humour by social actors as a means of control or resistance to and making sense of social relationships and societies of any kind. Yet within the subject of humour there are many paradigms that aim to provide an explanation of how a humorous situation takes place for example, structural functionalism, conflict theories, Marxist analyses, social action theory, symbolic.

Similarly, the appearances of humour can be studied on multiple levels, starting with the macro-societal level, where the significance of humour is investigated in relation to a particular society or type of society, and ending with the micro-societal level, where the scholars observe how humour regulates the relationships between group members in small-group situations.

In my study, I will mainly concentrate on how humour works on the micro-societal level and—according to the premise outlined before—attempt to provide conclusions about the negotiated models of soldier behaviour in various social configurations. In the following section, I present the elements of the most popular theories of humour that have impacted the investigation of social relations and the role humour plays in them.

This theoretical basis will be used in the analytical part of my study. Already ancient writers assumed that humour constitutes human interactions, sets the character of those interactions, and, by doing this, is a part of every social system and 26 can therefore be analysed as a social process affecting the system. Laughter is, from an ethical point of view, to be avoided and constitutes a guilty pleasure. Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan defines the humorous event as a moment of triumph which the laughing people achieve by observing the defects of others and comparing the imperfections of others with "apprehension of some deformed thing in another by comparison whereof they suddenly applaud themselves" Hobbes's humour has a hostile character, setting up power relations in the social group, but he also allows for a type of humour without offence, which has a group-consolidating function: people can sometimes laugh at outsiders "by observing the imperfections of other men" Humour, as observed by Hobbes, appears to have two sides: on the one hand, it has the power to create hierarchies based on the real or imaginary advantages of the laughing person, on the other hand, it unites people by creating collective superiority.

He is one of the first theoreticians to connect the feeling of superiority of a laughing person with the idea of incongruity: laughter results from "the bringing together of images which have contrary additional ideas as well as some resemblance in the principal idea" 24 , while the "contrary ideas" result very often from differences in social status. The 19th century brought the development of the concepts of superiority and incongruity.

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Alexander Bain, in his work The Emotions and the Will , concludes that all humour involves the degradation of something and expands Hobbes's ideas of superiority by adding political institutions, ideas, and inanimate objects anything that makes a claim to respect or is respected as targets for laughter. Herbert Spencer, in his Physiology of Laughter , follows a similar path: he thinks that all humor can be explained as descending incongruity.

Spencer's implied inequality of elements that create humour corresponds with Bain's idea that incongruity always involves a contrast between something exalted or dignified and something trivial or disreputable. In contrast to Bain, Spencer emphasises the incongruity aspect of the situation and not the descent or degradation.

One of the most influential humour theorists, Henri Bergson, in his essay Le Rire [Laughter] offers the clearest and most frequently quoted instance of an application of the superiority theory and opens the field for the modern social theories of 28 humour and laughter. Bergson's proposed ideal of human social behavior is elasticity, adaptability, the "elan vital" ["thrust of life"], while the laughable is for him "something mechanical encrusted upon the living" The typical comic character, he says, is a man with an obsession.

Such an obsessed figure is not flexible enough to adapt himself to the complex and changing demands of reality. Bergson criticizes the blind, automatic persistence of a professional habit of mind, which disregards altered circumstances, and observes that this behavior of individuals is marked as incorrect by the laughter of the group. He defines humour as a non-emotional social corrective, used by the majority of society to adjust the deviant behavior of individuals.

Bergson evaluates humour as an inclusive social mechanism, serving the goal of re admittance into the group, which puts this kind of humour in opposition to the exclusive humour which prevents the individual from accessing the laughing group. Such differentiation between the inclusive and exclusive function of humour plays a very important role in contemporary sociological humour research.

A comprehensive analysis of the functions of humour in social situations is offered by William H. Martineau describes the patterns of humour exchange that create and maintain the relations between the members of the group in intragroup within the same social group and intergroup between members of different social groups situations. In intragroup situations, esteeming humour inoffensive humour directed towards group members helps to solidify the group and to initiate and facilitate the communication and development of social relationships social distance between group members is reduced, consensus is achieved.

Humour serves as a symbol of social approval. Esteeming humour directed towards members of other groups can prevent or 29 introduce a hostile disposition against members of other groups. Disparaging humour offensive, aggressive humour directed towards group members has three main functions: first, it helps to control behavior in the group. This kind of humour can be described as controlled hostility against deviance. Another function of offensive humour within the group is to solidify the social structure: self-disparaging humour works to unify the group.

This goal is. The third function of offensive humour is to prevent the demoralization and disintegration of the group. Disparaging humour directed towards members of other groups increases morale and solidifies the group, but also establishes a hostile disposition towards others. In intergroup situations, humour can be judged as esteeming inoffensive or disparaging aggressive by one or both of the interacting groups. If humour is evaluated as inoffensive, consensus and social integration are achieved: the similarities between groups are maximized and the differences minimized.

Humour also helps maintain a friendly relationship between the two groups. If humour is seen as aggressive by one of the groups, it can threaten the relationship and possibly introduce conflict, but in some cases it may help redefine the relationship between the groups. Robert A. Stebbins moves away from the idea of superiority or inferiority of the social group and offers new insights into the social mobilization role of humour. If the members of the group have no socially acceptable means of escape from the setting of concentration, such as quitting before the task is finished, going into reverie, or even taking a short break, humour allows them to relax and re-focus on the task.

In other words, social comic relief reduces fatigue which, if allowed to increase, threatens role performance and motivation. Such re-charging through humour, as we will see in the analytical part of this study, is quite commonly used in the texts to show how the military unit ensures the most effective completion of the given task.

Functionalism, developed in the. The system contains interrelated smaller parts that have been assigned special functions and that work together in order to guarantee the survival of the whole.


Understood that way, social systems work to maintain an equilibrium and to return to it after any disturbance of the social order. The mechanisms of socialization, applied to the members of the group, create conformity to culturally appropriate roles and socially supported norms and values! The mechanisms can be formal institutions or informal for example, sneering, gossip, laughter, or other forms of peer pressure.

Functionalism investigates the relationships between the parts of the system using the terms of function divided into manifest and latent functions , dysfunction, and functional alternative. A function is defined as the contribution made by any part to a larger system. The functionalists analysed laughter in so-called "joking relationships" in primitive societies, where the conflicts between the members of the social group are staged in mocking form in order to avoid violent conflicts. Alfred R. Radcliffe-Brown, in his fundamental work Structure and Function in Primitive Society , understands by joking relationship "a relation between two persons in which one is by custom permitted, and in some instances required, to tease or make fun of the other, who in turn is required to take no offense" Humour in the joking relationship serves the function of an alternative to physical violence.

In the analytical part of my study, I will show that the concept of unloading aggression in "joking relationships" also applies to the troops. In the military unit, violence against one's own comrades was prohibited by army regulations. Simultaneously, the tension resulting from the enforced co-habitation during the long waiting times in the trenches and the wide availability of weapons provoked the soldiers to use violence. It has to be noted that the idea that societies are smoothly-functioning and self-regulating entities has been challenged by feminist criticism, charging functionalist theories with an implicit normative, conservative content.

The conviction of the homeostatic state of social groups legitimates gender privilege and power while ignoring the social processes on the micro-level, as well as the work and attitudes of individuals which are difficult to render. Post-structural approaches like Gayle Rubin's "The Traffic in Women: Notes on the 'Political Economy' of Sex" , by contrast, interpret society as something less whole, less smoothly articulated, and characterized rather by 32 intersecting varieties of power that do not necessarily cooperate in any functional way.

Humour, characterized by ambivalence and both subversive and affirmative abilities, can be very well incorporated into such approaches. I am going to demonstrate this ambiguity with the example of humour and laughter in German narrations about the First World War. War literature in Germany On the night of December 12th, , Hans Carossa, serving as a military doctor in a German front unit, noted the following about the meaning of his autobiographical writing in the diary he kept during the campaign in the East, Rumanisches Tagebuch [Romanian Diary] : Friiher wuBte ich ja nicht, wozu man Aufzeichnungen schreibt; jetzt aber sind sie mir wie die Brotkrummchen, welche Hansel und Gretel im Walde ausstreuen, um gewiB wieder nach Hause zu finden.

Freilich, als die Kinder dann wirklich den Heimweg antreten wollten, da hatten die Vogel alles aufgepickt,—aber da beginnt ja auch erst das eigentliche Marchen. Of course, when the children try to return home, the birds have pecked up all the pieces already—but that's also the moment when the real fairy tale begins, my transl. In this metaphorical image, in which the author puts himself in the position of the consumer of his own text, both the desperate will to verbalize and therefore interpret the events and resist the feeling of being lost in the impulse overload and the impossibility of 25 See Gayle Rubin, "The Traffic in Women: Notes on the 'Political Economy' of Sex," '5, Literary Theory: An Anthology, ed.

Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan Maiden:. Blackwell, Autobiographical writing is, in Carossa's interpretation, a form of finding meaning in the overwhelming wave of impressions, a form of self-therapy. The futility of all such attempts may be obvious from the perspective of time, when the interpretative framework necessarily changes and coerces one to face the unknown, but the very effort to deal with the unfamiliar surroundings is a question of self-preservation.

There is strong evidence in German war literature for the claim that autobiographical writing serves the purpose of making sense of the individual's front experience. A l l four authors whose works I have selected for this study admitted that their writing was a method of interpreting, of fitting the war into their world view. Walter Bloem, editing and publishing his memoirs during the war, in , was driven by the wish "Geschichte [zu] machen" ["to make history"] Vormarsch 37 , where his writing about the war of was confronted with reality, and the reality of became his writing.

Bloem found himself involved in an event of historical dimension that he constantly compared with the past war—and made sense of through that comparison. Ernst Jiinger, Arnold Zweig, and Erich Maria Remarque, whose works appeared on the market in , , and respectively, admitted to periods of depression after the end of the war and described their literary activity as a method to face the "Erlebnis" ["experience"] of the war. Would writing about war then be the authors' personal attempt to sprinkle crumbs of memories in order to compose a pattern of war images that would allow them to find their place in the story?

Yes, but not only that, for the real tale begins with the post-war reception of the texts that contain the autobiographical motifs. Volume 89 , Issue 3. If you do not receive an email within 10 minutes, your email address may not be registered, and you may need to create a new Wiley Online Library account. If the address matches an existing account you will receive an email with instructions to retrieve your username. Tools Request permission Export citation Add to favorites Track citation.

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