Chengjun Nie


Three approaches to the relation between “laughter” and the “grotesque” may be recognized in aesthetic research, namely, Kayser’s, Bakhtin’s and the hybridity of both. A forth approach may be described from Foucault’s elaboration on laughter in his preface to The Order of Things, which may be termed as an approach of conducting aesthetic discursive practices of the grotesque by way of laughter. Foucault did not directly deal with the relation between the grotesque and laughter, but instead let out four laughs in his text. He particularly translated in his language labyrinth the first laughter into 19 doubles, which, through redoubling in the subsequent three laughs, presented themselves as revisions with “overlappings”. As a result, “the order of things,” was surfaced with an “order of laughter,” with a created double. Therefore, a Foucauldian self-doubling poetics is configured, exhibiting the grotesque aesthetic practices at both diachronic and synchronic levels. The significance of such aesthetics is threefold. First, laughter is not only a necessary component of the grotesque in its aesthetic mechanism, but also a form and way of writing the grotesque. Secondly, the investigation of Western grotesque aesthetics does not have to be confined to the etymology of “grotesque,” but can be extended to the specific discursive representations of the grotesque aesthetics. Thirdly, the grotesque needs a reconstruction of the poetics of doubles in that it continuously lends itself to the unrepresentable in the “word’s intransitivity.” The self-doubling poetics is grotesque because the historical apriority of discourse makes “things” invisible.


grotesque, Foucauldian laughter, preface to The Order of Things, self-doubling poetics

First Page


Last Page