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Subject:

The stimulus-side approach and alternatives

From:

"Dr. Alexander Brock" <[log in to unmask]>

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[log in to unmask]

Date:

Mon, 22 Nov 1999 10:12:33 +0100

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Dear Robert,
I've been following yours and Jim's discussion for the last couple of weeks. Your essentialist response-type model is intriguing.

At 19:36 21.11.99 +0900, you wrote:
>  There is, however, a third possibility, which I present and advocate in my
>book. (I've never seen mention of it elsewhere - if you have, please let me
>know.) You might call it the response-side approach. As against the
>anti-essentialist approach, it posits that humor is a single phenomenon at
>bottom, that it does have an essential nature, and, as against the
>stimulus-side approach, it posits that this essential nature does not lie in
>the stimulus, but rather in the response. That is to say, there is a fairly
>complex pattern of response, a response-type if you will, such that if it
>occurs, humor occurs, and if not, then not, and the stimulus in a particular
>case might be this, that, or the other. (According to my particular
>response-side theory, however, incongruity plays only a very minor role in
>humor and none worthy of special mention.)
>  My suggestion, then, is that perhaps you ought to take all three of these
>possibilities into account.

I like your response-side approach, because among other things it accounts for unintentional humour and stresses the active role of the recipient (below you find references to some articles that also take the response side). In your book, however, you seem to shift some the problems of essentialist stimulus-side approaches to the response side. The biggest to me seems your third stage of "final-stage laughter" (p. 41), If you define "humorous laughter" as an essential condition of the basic humour process, then you seem to be producing a circular definition. It's humorous if you laugh humorously in the end. Deduct this, and you end up with just the cognitive shift, which is not enough to define the phenomenon. So you don't seem to be doing much for describing the "fairly complex pattern of response" as you put it quite correctly. 
  As an alternative I (below and forthcoming) suggest a complex non-essentialist response-side model that incorporates incongruities, aggression and the mechanical. These elements are interrelated in many ways: incongruities can only be perceived if the recipient acts mechanically, i.e. does not expect the unlimited wealth of continuations possible at each moment of the discourse, but a very limited number of options; any perceived incongruity is the basis for an element of self-aggression in the recipient, because (s)he has been fooled, shown to act mechanically, etc. This model allows for shifting prominence of the elements. The mixture of ingredients is not established on a yes-no basis, but on a gliding scale. Instances of the humour are connected by family resemblance. This model is pragmatic, because many language-related humorous things cannot be captured by semantics. I hope that this combines the advantages of a response-side approach with a flexible descriptive apparatus. Most of the things that I suggest are not very formalised, nor do I think they can be.

Yours,

Alexander

Brock, Alexander (1996) - Wissensmuster im humoristischen Diskurs. Ein Beitrag zur Inkongruenztheorie anhand von Monty Python's Flying Circus, In: Kotthoff, Helga (Hrsg.), Scherzkommunikation. Beiträge aus der empirischen Gesprächsforschung. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag , 21-48

Brock, Alexander (1998) - Ein integratives Modell der Humorrezeption?, In: Brock, Alexander / Martin Hartung (Hrsg.), Neuere Entwicklungen in der Gesprächsforschung. Vorträge der 3. Arbeitstagung des Pragmatischen Kolloquiums Freiburg, Tübingen: Gunter Narr , 69-84






-------------------------------
Dr. Alexander Brock
Rossmarktstrasse 21
04177 Leipzig
Germany

Tel.: 0341-4772004


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