The contemporary Western concept of the clown is situated, at least partially, within the continuity of a traditional Christian heritage that accounts for some of its highest meanings and manifestations, while bearing witness to an undeniable impoverishment of the sacred dimension upon which this foundation was laid. For one thing, the clown has been reduced to a mere source of amusement and the essence and the intrinsic necessity of this entertaining function has most often been lost sight of along the way. Another revealing factor of this impoverishment lies in the quasi-exclusive association of the clown with children, as if adults could only participate tangentially or marginally in his feats, or as if the clown were not “for them.”1 Moreover, this reduction runs parallel with the confinement of the clown within the circle of the circus, that is, in a domain of fantasy and dream that remains foreign to the actual “business” of life. Like the sacred and death, with which—as we see—he bears profound affinities, the clown has been expelled to the outskirts of life, so much so that he has become persona non grata within the range of “real life.” At best, he is deemed to be an instrument of temporary relief, a kind of psychosocial luxury that one may enjoy once in a while. This was not the way among Native American societies, as also in many other traditional contexts. Here the clown was not just a pleasant entertainer; he embodied and acted out a vital spiritual and psychic function.


Prima Facie Role Reversal Revealing Factor Traditional Context Psychic Function 
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© Patrick Laude 2005

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  • Patrick Laude

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