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Tarachow, S. (1949). Remarks on the Comic Process and Beauty. Psychoanal Q., 18:215-226.

(1949). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 18:215-226

Remarks on the Comic Process and Beauty

Sidney Tarachow, M.D.


Comedy is a release of aggression. The comedian attacks or destroys the object with a technique which ensures freedom from reprisal. The urge to tell a joke is a sadomasochistic impulse in which the aggression and the guilt are of about equal strength; it is a device for discharging the tensions of both the aggressions and the guilt without the burden of resolving the ambivalence. The artistic creation of beauty is

also a relief, but from the intolerable tension of the fear and aggressions of others. In art the feared object is not destroyed, but transformed into something controlled and beautified. The special technique in creating beauty is a shift in emphasis from the object to the perfection of the style and the composition of the representation. There is then an unconscious, passive resignation of the artist to the beauty of his work of art. The comedian transforms a tension into ambivalently expressed aggression. The artist transforms a tension into exhibitionism of his passive resignation to the object. The comic thrust is a weapon of revenge. The creation of beauty is a reconciliation with the enemy. The comedian is a hostile sharpshooter loudly proclaiming his innocence. The artist is in dread of his objects and proclaims his control and denial of fear. The comedian says, 'I transgress, but what a relief. It is only a joke'; the artist says, 'This creature is horrible and to be feared. But what a relief! I can make it beautiful. I love it.'

The advance toward maturity which beauty makes over comedy is that in beauty the ambivalence is resolved in favor of love, while in comedy the essence of the technique is unresolved ambivalence.

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