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Thinking Through Tragedy and Comedy A Symposium on Performance Philosophy and the Future of Genre

Rupert Glasgow


Like jokes and other forms of social play, comedy creates a doubly paradoxical context in which spectators are induced to call reality into question and expect the unexpected. This is because comedy tends to be implicitly or explicitly structured by the twin paradoxes that ‘this is not real/true’ and that ‘you are now going to be surprised’. I shall briefly look at how this is achieved and at the nature of the inherent paradoxy. Then I shall turn to examine the ways in which certain types of philosophy likewise provide a context in which reality is called into question and we may expect to be surprised, again focusing on how such breaches in expectations may be associated with playfulness or paradoxy. I shall make the further claim that certain sorts of philosophy share with comedy a power of defamiliarization whereby we are brought not only to expect the unexpected but to unexpect the expected.

Rupert Glasgow was born in Sheffield. From 1991 to 1997 he lived in Berlin, where he wrote a book on the relationship between comedy and philosophy, The Comedy of Mind: Philosophers Stoned, or the Pursuit of Wisdom. He now lives in Zaragoza, where he translates paleontology texts. He goes on occasional excursions to Germany to teach philosophy.