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Indirect Analysis: Lacan, Kierkegaard And Humour

The Letter, Issue 30, Spring 2004, Pages 101 - 110


Marcus Pound

In Seminar II Lacan identifies Kierkegaard as a 'humorist'.[1] Why did Lacan describe Kierkegaard as a humorist and not as a Christian or a melancholic? Humour played a crucial role in Kierkegaard's critique of Hegel: rather than simply express outrage at Hegel's project, Kierkegaard used humour to indirectly challenge him. In this paper I suggest that Kierkegaard's indirect critique illuminates a role for humour in Lacanian analysis; and in turn, Lacanian analysis illuminates a role for humour in theology. This paper consists of four parts. First, I consider Freud and Lacan's views of humour. Second, I look at Kierkegaard's view of humour. Third, I compare the two in the light of analysis. Fourth, I reflect on analysis, humour, and theology.

Freud and Lacan's views of humour

Lacan often makes the association between analysis and humour. For example Lacan says:

The closer we get to psychoanalysis being funny the more it is real psychoanalysis. Later on, it will get run in, it will be done by cutting corners and by pulling tricks. No one will understand any longer what's being done, just as there is no longer any need to understand anything about optics to make a microscope.[2]

Moreover, in his seminar on sexuality Lacan delights in Freud's name, Freude being the German for joy or pleasure: 'Freud, what a funny name - Kraft durch Freud [strength through Freud/strength through joy], it's a whole platform! It is the funniest leap in the sacred farce of history'.[3]

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