T. Bob's Home Page English 102 Honors Home Page  AUTHOR LINKS/READINGS Assignments

Helpful Terms for Analyzing Humor (I)

Character:            The qualities that define or sum up an person in a text.
         There are three fundamental methods of characterization:  (1) the explicit presentation by the author of the character through direct exposition, either in an introductory block or more often piecemeal throughout the work, illustrated by action; (2) the presentation of the character in action, with little or no explicit comment by the author, in the expectation that the reader can deduce the attributes of the actor from the actions; and (3) the representation from within a character, without comment by the author, of the impact of actions and emotions on the character's inner self.
         Regardless of the method by which a character is presented, the author may concentrate on a dominate trait to the exclusion of other aspects of personality, or the author may attempt to present a fully rounded creation.  If the presentation of a single dominate trait is carried to an extreme, not a believable character but a caricature will result. . . .  On the other hand, the author may present so convincing a congeries of personality traits that a complex rather than a simple character emerges; such a character is three-dimensional or, in E.M. Forster's term, "round" . . . .
         Furthermore, a character may be either static or dynamic.  A static character is one who changes little if at all.  Things happen to such a character rather than showing the character changing in response to the actions. . . .  A dynamic character, on the other hand, is one who is modified by actions and experiences, and one objective of the work in which the character appears is to reveal the consequences of these actions.

Comedy:  Any work, particularly a work of drama which is marked by a happy ending and a less exalted style than than in tragedy.  It seeks to depict the ludicrous--that which makes people laugh--by a vareity of means, and seldom is concerned to appear "real."  Indeed, though its style and methods, a comedy often clearly implies, "This isn't true.  It's only funny." 

Exaggeration:            When an object or person or situation is made to seem extremely large or small in relationship to its true size or importance.

Incongruity:  "When.. . a particular movement is perceived, the impulsion is given to forming an idea of it by means of a certain expenditure of energy.  In >trying to understand=, therefore, in apperceiving this movement, I make a certain expenditure, and in this portion of the mental process I behave exactly as though I were putting myself in the place of the person I am observing.  But at the same moment, probably, I bear in mind the aim of this movement, and my earlier experience enables me to estimate the scale of expenditure required for reaching that aim. . . .  If the other person=s movement is exaggerated and inexpedient, my increased expenditure in order to understand it is inhibited, as it were in the act of being mobilized; it is declared superfluous and is free for use elsewhere or perhaps for discharge by laughter. . . .  Thus a uniform explanation is provided of the fact that a person appears comic to us if, in comparison with ourselves, he makes too great an expenditure on his bodily functions and too little on his mental ones; and it cannot be denied that in both these cases our laughter expresses a pleasurable sense of the superiority which we feel in relation to him.  If the relation in the two cases is reversed (if the other person's physical expenditure is found to be less than ours or his mental expenditure greater) then we no longer laugh, we are filled with astonishment and admiration.@ B Freud, Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious

Mock Epic:            a form that burlesques the epic by treating a trivial subject in the grand style or uses the epic formulas to make a trivial subject by ludricrously overstating it.  A successful mock epic has a clear effect:  to ridicule trivial or silly conduct; to mock the pretensions and absurdities of epic proper; to bestow on affectionate measure of elevation on low or foolish characters; and to bestow a humanizing, deflating, or debunking measure on elevated characters.

Plot:  The events or actions which take place in a text presented in the order in which they are revealed in the text.  The plot always has a forward progress:  it begins at the beginning, it has a middle, and it ends with an ending.  The text need not present these in this order, but, for a plot to exist, all must be in the text.  To present evidence of the plot, one must present an accurate summary of all its parts.

 


 

Point of View:            The vantage point from which an author presents a story.  If the author serves as a seemingly all-knowing maker, the points of view is called omniscient.  At the other extreme, a character in the story--major, minor, or marginal--may tell the story as he or she experienced it.  Such a character is usually called a first-person narrator; if the character does not comprehend the implications of what is told, the character is called a naive narrator.  The author may tell the story in the third person and yet present it as it is seen and understood by a single character, restricting information to what that character sees, hears, feels, and thinks; such a point of view is said to be limited.  The author may employ such a point of view and restrict the presentation to the interior responses of the point of view character, resulting in the interior monologue.,  The author may present material by a process of narrative exposition in which actions and conversation are presented in summary rather than in detail; this method is called panoramic.  On the other hand, the author may present actions and conversations in detail, as they occur, and more or less objectively--without authorial comment; such a method is usually called scenic.  If the author never speaks in his or her own person and does not obviously intrude, the author is said to be self-effacing.  In extended works, authors frequently employ several methods. . . .

 Setting:  The places and historical times in which the actions of a text are said to take place.  They may be general, highly specific, or both. 

 

horizontal rule