Subversive Humor as Art and the Art of Subversive Humor

The Philosophy of Humor Yearbook 1 (1):153–179 (2020)
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This article investigates the relationships between forms of humor that conjure up possible worlds and real-world social critiques. The first part of the article will argue that subversive humor, which is from or on behalf of historically and continually marginalized communities, constitutes a kind of aesthetic experience that can elicit enjoyment even in adversarial audiences. The second part will be a connecting piece, arguing that subversive humor can be constructed as brief narrative thought experiments that employ the use of fictionalized scenarios to facilitate an open, playful attitude, encouraging a space for collaborative interpretation. This interaction between humorist and audience is an aesthetic experience that is enjoyable in and of itself, as the feelings of mirth are intrinsically valuable. But connected to the “Ha-ha!” experience of these sorts of humorous creations is an “Aha!” or potentially revelatory experience that is a mixture of cognitive comprehension and motivated (emotional) response. The third part of the article will attempt to go beyond the consciousness-raising element with an account of how such possible worlds created in the realm of imagination through subversive humor can bleed into the real world of flesh and blood people. Finally, an example of subversive humor will be analyzed.

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Chris A. Kramer
Santa Barbara City College


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