Book Symposium on Satire, Comedy and Mental Health by Dieter Declercq. With: Heike Bartel (Associate Professor in German, Nottingham), Daniel Flavin-Hall (Consultant & Professor of Psychiatry, Mayo Clinic, Rochester Minnesota), Sheila Lintott (Professor of Philosophy, Bucknell) Orla Vigsö (Professor of Media Studies, Gothenburg)
Each of the four speakers will offer a commentary on the book, with a short response from Dieter Declercq (Lecturer in Film and Media Studies, Kent). This will be followed by an audience Q&A. Hosted by Murray Smith (Professor of Film, Kent). All welcome!
About the book Satire, Comedy and Mental Health examines how satire helps to sustain good mental health in a troubled socio-political world. Through an interdisciplinary dialogue that combines approaches from the analytic philosophy of art, medical and health humanities, media studies, and psychology, the book demonstrates how satire enables us to negotiate a healthy balance between care for others and care of self.
Building on a thorough philosophical explication and close analysis of satire in various forms – including novels, music, TV, film, cartoons, memes, stand-up comedy and protest artefacts – Declercq investigates how we can harness satirical entertainment to ease the limits of critique. In so doing, the book presents a compelling case that, while satire cannot hope to cure our sick world, it can certainly help us to cope with it.
Dr. Kathrine Cuccuru (Associate Research Fellow, Department of Philosophy, University of Sussex)
Abstract ‘Culture wars’ are not new. One of the most heated is played out in early eighteen-century England amongst the politically partisan satirical poets, and their prime target, the newly fashionable professional critic. According to these satirists, the critic dangerously peddles the false sublime. Philosophers are now most familiar with the sublime as the aesthetic concept that captures our ‘terrible delight’; that transporting affect of grand and threatening physical nature. However, from its origins in the ancient rhetorical text Peri Hypsous, the earliest modern English accounts focus on the sublime in poetry. Philosophical debate initially centred on the sublime genius, who is understood to have the capacity to irresistibly transport the audience, i.e., create(through poetry) the true sublime effect that properly moves the character to the height of virtue. Significantly, the true genius must know the genuine sublime in order to rightly produce its effect. Problematically, though, the false sublime (i.e., melancholic enthusiasm, a kind of madness) has the same transporting effect. Raising the hotly contested worry: if not by its effect, how does the sublime genius know (and correctly judge) the true sublime, and how does an undeveloped character be virtuously moved by it? This serious philosophical problem is, perhaps, unexpectedly, best illuminated by the satirical accounts. Particularly, by leading Scriblerian, Alexander Pope (1688-1744), in Peri Bathous: Or Maritinus Scriblerus his Treatise of the Art of Sinking Poetry (1727, 1728), where the bathous (‘profound’ depth) is an inversion of the hypsous (‘sublime’ height); thus, turning the sublime into the ridiculous. Although Pope clearly identifies the dangers of the false sublime, I argue that his account succumbs to the same problems as one of his main target’s, the literary critic John Dennis (1658-1734). Equally, that the Third Earl of Shaftesbury’s (1671-1713) appeal to raillery does not form a philosophical solution. Instead, that the (for them undesirable) Pyrrhonian reply exposes that these accounts largely amount to opposing intellectual elites defending their claim on moral and political opinion. A lesson for all culture wars, past and present.
Murray Smith (Professor of Film, University of Kent; ARC Director)
Abstract The coronavirus pandemic starkly dramatizes a striking and paradoxical feature of sport in general, and football in particular, at the centre of Steffen Borge’s penetrating study of the so-called beautiful game, The Philosophy of Football (Routledge, 2019): the fact that for all those with a stake in the game, it means everything; and yet at the same time it doesn’t really matter at all. Call this the paradox of football: how can we come to care so much about something that doesn’t really matter? Borge argues that our passionate engagement with football has a fictional character, involving the pretence that the outcome of matches and the fortunes of teams and players matter. In this he follows – in spirit and outline if not in all details – Kendall Walton’s influential theory of fiction as make-belief. On Walton’s account, fictions prompt powerful affective states which, though keenly felt, are but ‘quasi-emotions’: affects borne of games of pretence. I explore Borge’s view, point to some problems, and advance an alternative solution to the paradox inspired by psychologist Abraham Maslow’s once influential, but nowadays largely neglected, ‘hierarchy of needs’ model. It is no pretence that (such things as) football matter to us. We genuinely value football, but to see how this is true, we need a more fine-grained and multi-dimensional account of what we value than a stark divide between the world of ordinary action, and the ‘extra-ordinary’ world of play and pretence, allows.
A full draft of the paper is available as a pre-read for this event. Those with interest are encouraged to contact Prof. Smith ahead of the event; firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday 13th May 2019, 5pm-7pm in Keynes Seminar Room 4, University of Kent
In 1744 James Harris, echoing the Earl of Shaftesbury and prefiguring Lessing’s Loacoon, wrote of pictures that they are ‘of necessity a punctum temporis’, which is to say, they are incapable of representing an interval of time. It has been argued by Gombrich and others that this view is simply contradicted by the evidence of paintings that represent movement, change or events unfolding over time. This paper considers Gombrich’s argument against the punctum temporis view of pictures, Robin Le Poidevin’s reconstruction of it, and the examples that both assume are inconsistent with the punctum temporis view. It is argued that neither argument achieves what its author claims of it, and that, properly understood, the punctum temporis view of pictures is perfectly consistent with the representation of movement and temporally extended events.