Absurdism, Books, Rhetoric

A fellow of infinite jest

Recently I summarised, dissected, reviewed and analysed Cervantes’s masterwork Don Quixote. It elicited a request for further classic works, more revered than read, to be so treated. Here, in a continuation of that public service, therefore, is my rumination on an English comic novel: The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Lawrence Sterne, first published in York in 1759.

The Monty Python team once held an All-England Summarise Proust Competition in which the finalists were required to summarise A la recherche du Temps Perdu, once in swimsuit and once in evening dress. Continue reading

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Absurdism, Books

The Laughing Philosophers

I have been reading a book, just published, by Slavoj Zizek consisting entirely of jokes culled from his cultural theory texts, called Zizek’s Jokes*. Here is an example:

Jeremy Bentham deployed the unique notion of ‘self-icon’ that is the notion that a thing is its own best sign, as in the Lewis Carroll joke about Englishmen using ever larger maps until they finally settled on using England itself as its own map.

I don’t advise him to change his career to stand-up comedian, just yet. The book is a compilation of about a hundred jokes illustrating concepts such as the logic of the Hegelian triad and the Lacanian real. Wittgenstein once said that “a serious and interesting philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes” (On Certainty), and Zizek’s publishers quote it, but this compilation fails to amount to a work of philosophy (interesting or otherwise). Continue reading

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