851-0300-79L  Theories of Joke

SemesterAutumn Semester 2016
LecturersA. Kilcher
Periodicitynon-recurring course
Language of instructionGerman

AbstractFrom Plato, Aristotle and Cicero, philosophers have tried to find the core principle of wit (or the joke, as both meanings are contained in the German term "Witz"). Even during the 20th century, the philosophy of life and psychoanalysis struggle with it. The seminar provides an overview of this history.
ObjectiveThis seminar deals with the meaning and history of "Witz" (wit, joke) as a form of knowledge. It places "Witz" as a switch or transitional figure within the development of modern theories of knowledge in particular.
ContentContrary to intuitive expectations, the German term "Witz" is not only an instance of the comical, but also a form of knowledge that plays on similarity and difference by juxtaposing the disparate. In this vein, especially during the 17th and 18th centuries, "Witz" becomes a central attribute of poetic and rhetorical types of expression (wit). Only during the 19th century "Witz" comes to denote a characteristic genre of the comical (joke). From now on "Witz" is theoretically associated with the comical and laughter. Around 1900 there are approaches based on the philosophy of life, sociology and psychology, elaborated by Bergson, Bakhtin and Freud, among others.