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The ethics of comedy in the representation of political violence in post-1945 European fiction

Ming, Grégoire Ueli; (2021) The ethics of comedy in the representation of political violence in post-1945 European fiction. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

This PhD in Comparative Literature explores the ethics of comedy in the literary representation of political violence. In bringing together comedy and readerly ethics, it addresses a neglected field of research in scholarly discussions around the representation of violence that privilege the tragic and melancholy. Drawing upon four major works of contemporary European fiction, the purpose of this PhD is to demonstrate that the comic provides an intellectual arena where various cultural norms can be articulated and negotiated. Understood as non-serious discourse, I argue that the comic disrupts taken-for-granted assumptions in the portrayal of violence and exposes readers to otherness. More specifically, I suggest that the comic shatters the readers’ identification with characters, their interpretative framework and their perception of the character’s subject position. Confronted with the comic representation of political violence, readers are challenged to engage with fiction in a dynamic way. For comedy, due to its inherent indeterminacy, does not provide any restorative counter- model. Instead, the comic prompts readers to face up to the contradictory aspects of fiction and negotiate their own responsibility in the fruition of literature. In terms of methodology, this thesis rests on close reading of works of fiction in the original language, addressing comparatively and multilingually four different contexts of political coercion in the mid- and late 20th century. For each work, I analyse both how the comic occupies a crucial, if overlooked function in the text and how the significance of the comic inflects the ethical import of the novel. In conclusion, I suggest that the comic reinstates the individual response to political abuse and, ultimately, the power of literature to convey the ethical ambiguities of social experience.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: The ethics of comedy in the representation of political violence in post-1945 European fiction
Event: UCL (University College London)
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2021. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > SELCS
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10126501
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