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Abstract

In The Name of the Rose the deafness to laughter and the lack of insight into the comic aspects of the human condition lead to murder, inquisition, and torture and the destruction of the lost book on comedy of Aristotle’s Poetics in a fire at a monastery.1 This lack of comedy and laughter has all too often led to a blind solemnity that undervalues the comic and sets up a dreary hierarchy of disciplines. Although a master of the poetic and fictional, Plato wanted to banish the poets who would not sing paeans to the republic. Aristotle restored a place for poetics, but it was beneath philosophy, which was more universal, and above history, which was less so.2 Philip Sidney put poetry on top because its universal and concrete images were more accessible in moving people to virtue, yet he kept history in the basement.3 Either through a loss of Aristotle’s discussion of comedy or through a sense that men were like Saint Paul and had shed childish things when they came of age, comic recognition or insight (cognitio) seldom if ever gained the same status in literary theory and criticism that tragic recognition (anagnorisis) achieved.

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© Jonathan Hart 2006

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