"A remarkable tour through the 'archive of laughter'; Anca Parvulescu analyzes a stunning array of texts, concepts, and anecdotes in order to demonstrate the disturbingly nonhuman element of this most human of activities. Parvulescu demonstrates, in her elegant readings and suggestive meditations, that it is not the subject who laughs, but who is laughed. Indeed, her book suggests a revised formulation of the cogito: 'It laughs, therefore I am not." Kenneth Reinhard, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Director, Program in Experimental Critical Theory, UCLA "In her Laughter: Notes on a Passion, Anca Parvulescu offers a unique answer to the great riddle of the drives in psychoanalytic theory. Eros and Thanatos, life drive and death drive, are in some sense shown to have their common ground in that uncanny convulsion of the body that erupts in a burst of laughter. For Parvulescu, the human capacity to 'die laughing' -- a capacity whose great master was, as the author argues, Georges Bataille -- turns out to be the key to new possibilities of human freedom and new kinds of community. The elaboration of this discovery gathers together its own remarkable community of laughers from the Bible, ancient, early modern, and modern philosophy, the sciences of the passions, African-American literature, feminist theory, and the history of cinema. I know of no book that so rigorously and delightfully gets us to take laughter seriously." Eric L. Santner, author of The Royal Remains: The People's Two Bodies and the Endgames of Sovereignty
Anca Parvulescu is Assistant Professor in the English Department and the Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities at Washington University in St. Louis.
An intellectual short circuit, and it deserves the careful attention of a broad audience, not just students of 'laughter'. * Choice * What's remarkable about Paravulescu's brief history is its fresh and eclectic documentation, and this erudite trait continues throughout the book. The bulk of the work focuses on modernism and the laughs in the African-American tradition (Ellison), the philosophical avant-gardes and their focus on the experience of laughter (Bataille), feminism and the location of Medusa's laugh (Cixous), and film from photograph to cinema and the laugh of culture industry (Adorno). Each chapter includes the context and background necessary for the uninitiated before moving into subtle analyses that allow each laugh to reverberate on the page. No summary, regardless of its completeness, can reveal the impressiveness of Parvulescu's study. * Journal of Modern Literature *