Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Nature of Comedy -- Essay 2

My husband Murry is astonished that anyone would actually want to read my schoolwork. I told him that most of my friends are art-and-lit-nerds who think it'd be fun, and if you're reading this blog, you likely resemble that remark.


That said, here's an intro to my second essay.


Is the Spirit of Comedy a Genius Loci?
An Essay on Meredith’s Consideration of Molière and its Extensibility Beyond Cultural Boundaries

George Meredith’s elegant, eloquent disquisition on the “comic spirit” led me down an unexpected path. In this essay, I will not only examine Molière’s Tartuffe and The Misanthrope, seeking the thoughtful laughter Meredith considers a hallmark of the comic spirit. I will also seek examples of that laughter in a culture which, at least superficially, resembles the Court of Louis XIV—that of the Chinese Ming Dynasty. If the Court of Louis XIV inspired Molière, an exemplar of the comic spirit according to George Meredith, might we find the Spirit of Comedy in different culture containing a similar setting? While this brief essay cannot hope to make sufficient assay across so broad a topic, I hope the abbreviated effort to determine whether Meredith’s spirit of comedy is a genius loci or not will bring a smile to the essay’s reader.

When Meredith wrote “One excellent test of the civilization of a country…I take to be the flourishing of the Comic idea and Comedy…” (Meredith), he implicitly raised a question—if the Spirit of Comedy reflects what is both human and humane in a civilization, is it found not only in Western civilization, but in Eastern as well? Or is the Spirit of Comedy a genius loci, its smile not a universal smile but one constrained by cultural boundaries? Meredith himself hints this may be so in his unflattering description of German laughter:

"The German literary laugh, like the timed awakenings of their Barbarossa in the hollows of the Untersberg, is infrequent, and rather monstrous—never a laugh of men and women in concert. It comes of unrefined abstract fancy, grotesque or grim, or gross, like the peculiar humours of their little earthmen. … This treble-Dutch lumbersomeness of the Comic spirit is of itself exclusive of the idea of Comedy…"(Meredith)


Want to read more? Leave me a comment to that effect. And any comments, to any effect, are of course welcome.

1 comment:

am said...

Thanks for posting this, lori. Right now I'm realizing that I don't have time to read more than these excerpts. I'm definitely an art-and-lit nerd :-)

I look forward to Sundays and Mondays, when I can do blog reading.

Not usually out reading blogs on Wednesdays, but yesterday was Veteran's Day, and this morning I have a few minutes.