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From "Ha he hi ho hu. Mummum" to "Haw! Hell! Haw!": Listening to Laughter in Joyce and Beckett


The laughter heard throughout Joyce's and Beckett's texts is not merely a side-effect of humor, comedy or irony. It is rather a sound effect, one whose impact upon the language of the text, and upon the body of the listening reader, offers productive interference to the "silent practice" of writing and reading traditionally belonging to the novel and the hermeneutic practices associated with it. In attempting to formulate the impact of laughter in productive (rather than in destructive or deconstructive) terms, this analysis of laughter in Joyce's and Beckett's work turns away from Freud and the psychoanalytic treatments of laughter that still tend to dominate criticism. Instead, it introduces a series of German theorists—from Helmuth Plessner to Peter Sloterdijk—who, despite their signal importance to this aspect of Joyce's and Beckett's work, have for the most part not been translated into English.

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