Humour: A Very Short Introduction

ISBN : 9780199552221

Noel Carroll
144 Pages
114 x 174 mm
Pub date
Jan 2014
Very Short Introductions


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  • An introduction to the nature and value of humour and all of the leading theories
  • Explores the connections between humour and cognition
  • Looks at its moral dimensions - when does humour become immoral?
  • Written by a leading figure in the fields of aesthetic theory, philosophy of film, and humour

Humour has been discovered in every known human culture and thinkers have discussed it for over two thousand years. Humour can serve many functions; it can be used to relieve stress, to promote goodwill among strangers, to dissipate tension within a fractious group, to display intelligence, and some have even claimed that it improves health and fights sickness. 
In this Very Short Introduction Noel Carroll examines the leading theories of humour including The Superiority Theory and The Incongruity Theory. He considers the relation of humour to emotion and cognition, and explores the value of humour, specifically in its social functions. He argues that humour, and the comic amusement that follows it, has a crucial role to play in the construction of communities, but he also demonstrates that the social aspect of humour raises questions such as 'When is humour immoral?' and 'Is laughing at immoral humour itself immoral?'. 


1: The nature of humour
2: Humour, emotion, and cognition
3: Humour and value
Further reading

About the author: 

Noël Carroll, Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Temple University
Noël Carroll is Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Temple University. He is a renowned scholar in the fields of film theory, the philosophy of literature, the philosophy of the visual arts, and social and cultural theory. He is the author or editor of 15 books and hundreds of articles on a wide range of humanistic and cultural topics and he has already written broadly on the topic of comedy. He currently teaches courses in film and media theory, philosophy of art and philosophy of history.

"Excellent introduction." - Steven Poole, the guardian

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