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Ehrenzweig, A. (1957). Beyond Laughter: By Martin Grotjahn. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1956. Pp. 285. $6.00.). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 38:364-365.

(1957). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 38:364-365

Beyond Laughter: By Martin Grotjahn. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1956. Pp. 285. $6.00.)

Review by:
Anton Ehrenzweig

Grotjahn tries to deal with the deeper symbolism of the 'laughable' in jokes, the comical, humorous, caricature, farce, comedy, fairytale figures, etc.; Freud, while being mainly concerned with the function of jokes, did not give the symbolic meaning of jokes the attention he gave to the symbols used in dreams. But it is the deeper symbolism which connects the laughable with the creative unconscious. Hence the book often takes us to the borderland between the joke and art which, in a way, lies 'beyond laughter'.

The author found in his clinical work that an interpretation given in the form of a joke was sometimes more easily understood than if given in a more direct manner. He hopes that the non-analytic reader, too, will be readier to meet his own unconscious if it is presented to him in the guise of a joke. Thus reading this book becomes a somewhat unsettling experience. While we still laugh about a light-hearted joke or caricature, the author suddenly reveals the anguish hidden behind the laughter. Nor is this technique conducive to coherent argument. It is as a source book of creative experiences that the book will succeed, and not so much as a textbook on psycho-analytical aesthetics. It reminds one of Groddeck's incomparable excursions into the deep unconscious, laughing yet dead serious and implying important theoretical progress. Particularly rewarding, to my mind, is the author's attempt to establish the connexion of laughter with the personality as a whole, particularly with its aggressive components.

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