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Showing posts from January 3, 2010

A harlot high and low

Véronique Nahoum-Grappe, a French ethnologist who studies intoxication – among other things – begins her essay, The ungovernable gratuitousness: dizziness behaviors, with a story: “Among the numerous favelas of Rio de Janeiro, those urbanized zones where the material precariousness is only equaled by the sociological stigmatization, the favela Rocihne is better platted than the others, situated on the elevated flank of a hill and overlooking certain rich sections of town. The poor can thus see the rich from up above, which brings about laughter and jokes on their part, but also all across the town, according to Esther Barberosa, a brazillian sociologist. To see from [d’en haut] up high those who see you from a height [de haut] is not an indifferent fact, in spite of the derisory gratuitousness of such a revenge. From the moment that the base of the ladder occupies an elevated position, the metaphor of the reversed world, in an illusory way, but nevertheless physical, as on a roller c

second tableau

Second tableau: Baudelaire, after presenting the laughter in relation to the Fall of man, goes on to divide it, as a form of art, into two kinds: the significatively comic and the absolutely comic. The ghost of Madame de Stael’s distinction between humor and gaiety knocks at the window here – and following de Stael, Baudelaire relates his two different types of comedy to different national types, with the English and Germans being the masters of absolute comedy, or the grotesque, and the French being inclined to the significatively comic – the gaiety, as de Stael would say, of a society in which conversation is cultivated. “The absolutely comic is much nearer nature, presents itself under one genus, and is the kind of thing that wants to be grasped by intuition. There is only one verification of the grotesque, it is laughter, and the laugh submits to it; in the face of the significative comic, it isn’t forbidden to laugh after it is done – this doesn’t argue against its value; it is a