Laughing at the past: Subversive humor in the Spanish picaresque and its cultural context
AdvisorFiore, Robert L.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractIn picaresque fiction, subversive humor is related to genre, thematic unity, narrator/protagonists' points of view, and it illustrates fictionalized reality that is linked to contemporaneous culture and society. In this dissertation, I employ theories on humor---superiority, incongruity, release, and entropic---to study humorous episodes in Lazarillo de Tormes (1554), Guzman de Alfarache (1599, 1604) and El buscon (1626). Chapter one provides an overview of theories on humor, beginning with Plato and Aristotle and including modern theorists such as Victor Raskin, Marvin Koller and Patrick O'Neill. The superiority theory begins with Plato and Aristotle and acquires popularity in the seventeenth century with the philosophers Thomas Hobbes and Rene Descartes. The incongruity theory, which treats playful humor, originates in the eighteenth century with philosophers such as Francis Hutcheson, James Beattie and Emmanuel Kant. This theory is also associated with black humor that combines violent extremes of horror and humor and causes people to become both horrified and amused. The release theory, which emanates from Freud's ideas on psychoanalysis relates to an individual's release of forbidden thoughts, inhibitions and anxieties. O'Neill's entropic humor theory, which is related to satire, irony and parody, erodes truths and certainty and exposes the disruption of ordered systems. Henri Bergson's study of laughter functions as a social corrective while Mikhail Bakhtin's view of carnivalesque laughter signifies the symbolic destruction of authority and official culture. Chapter two studies the entropic narrator in Lazarillo de Tormes and the ways in which humor reflects a breakdown of traditional perceptions of reality, the crumbling of ordered systems and the erosion of truth and certainty related to sixteenth-century Spain. Chapter three analyzes four types of humor in Guzman de Alfarache that deal with social and moral dishonesty, horror and humor and literary vengeance. Chapter four treats grotesque black humor in the Buscon that relates to death, gallows humor (galgenhumour), cannibalism and the mutilation of a human corpse (reductio ad absurdum). Subversive humor in picaresque fiction conceptualizes reality that is linked to thematic unity, points of view and the poetics of culture and environment of Spanish society during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Spanish and Portuguese