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HUMOUR-RESEARCH  1999

HUMOUR-RESEARCH 1999

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Subject:

Off-the-cuff remarks on the lamp-family photograph

From:

"Robert L. Latta" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Tue, 30 Nov 1999 20:35:35 +0900

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (82 lines)

To Philip Welding
November 30, 1999 (Tuesday, 7:50 PM JT)
Dear Philip,
  You're going to hand in your dissertation tomorrow! I'm no good at
thinking quickly, or at doing anything else quickly, but I'll try to give
you a little food for thought. The brief remarks which follow are not to be
taken as a response to your analysis of the lamp-family photograph, which I
think admirably subtle, or as a full presentation of my thinking on
incongruity-and-resolution theory, or as an analysis in terms of my own
theory - they're not this last at all. They're merely what I'm able to get
down in the few minutes I have now.
  Offhand, then, and in my opinion:
  As you might agree, there's congruity in the lamp-family photograph:
unobvious congruity. Unobvious congruity, however, is congruity for all that
it's unobvious. It's not incongruity. As it happens, there's no incongruity
in the photograph. A subject who protests that floor lamps and table lamps
don't belong outdoors in a public park, or that a table lamp doesn't belong
in a baby carriage, just doesn't comprehend, and thus his viewpoint is
irrelevant. He's like a person who thinks that a steel nail goes with a
thumb, sees a photograph of a steel nail with a hammer, and protests
incongruity. The relevant context here is humor, and in that context the
photograph makes perfectly good sense. Furthermore, if there were
incongruity, it would be unresolvable, for the very expression "resolvable
incongruity" is nonsense. If two or more things go together, even if only in
an unobvious way, then they're congruous, not incongruous. The notion of a
resolvable incongruity springs from confusion. The terms confused are the
idea of an unobvious congruity and that of an incongruity, which, however,
are quite distinct and not to be confused. Accordingly, a normal, competent
subject simply asks "What's this?" - or something to this effect - puzzles,
comprehends, and experiences humor. His question "What's this?" expresses
determination to comprehend, not a perception of incongruity. On first
glancing at the photograph, a subject might indeed but doesn't necessarily
respond "That's incongruous!" If he does respond this way, he's simply made
a false start. The humor process commences when he sets to puzzling. The
very fact that he does set to puzzling shows that he adopts the assumption
that the various elements in the photograph are or might be congruous, for
otherwise he has no motive to puzzle. This assumption, however, contradicts
the proposition that they're incongruous. In a nutshell, then, having made a
false start, he forgets about incongruity and puzzles to find congruity, and
thereby puts himself on the right track. A subject who puzzles and
comprehends experiences humor whether his initial response is to register
incongruity or not, and this in itself suffices to show that it's
inessential to register incongruity here.
  I'm afraid that this might be too compact to be comprehensible. I intend
to keep my promise to comment on your analysis and to analyze the humor in
the photograph in terms of my own theory.
  My best wishes on your dissertation!
As ever,
Robert































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