Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts


Theory and Criticism


John Vanderheide


This thesis examines humour as a theoretical problem, taking humour as both an object to be defined and as a mode of thinking in its own right. In the first chapter, I position humour between good sense and nonsense within a Deleuzian and psychoanalytic framework, culminating in a discussion of humour’s relationship to perversion. In the second chapter, I further develop this connection to perversion through an analysis of Christian humour, exploring the incongruity between the transcendent heights and corporeal depths, with special attention paid to the comedic works of Erasmus and Rabelais. In the third chapter, I examine how humour functions without the transcendent principle operative in Christianity, considering humour as a problem of modernity. I present modern humour as the incongruity between vital matter and mechanical life through a reading of Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman in dialogue with the theories of humour advanced by Henri Bergson and Wyndham Lewis. Across the various foci of this thesis, I develop a theory of humour as the expression of an incongruous duality that rejects resolution in favour of one term or a synthesis of the two into a higher principle