‘The Odd One In: On Comedy’ by Alenka Zupančič

Published by MIT Press in 2008.

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Why philosophize about comedy? What is the use of investigating the comical from philosophical and psychoanalytic perspectives? In The Odd One In, Alenka Zupančič considers how philosophy and psychoanalysis can help us understand the movement and the logic involved in the practice of comedy, and how comedy can help philosophy and psychoanalysis recognize some of the crucial mechanisms and vicissitudes of what is called humanity.

Comedy by its nature is difficult to pin down with concepts and definitions, but as artistic form and social practice comedy is a mode of tarrying with a foreign object—of including the exception. Philosophy’s relationship to comedy, Zupančič writes, is not exactly a simple story (and indeed includes some elements of comedy). It could begin with the lost book of Aristotle’s Poetics, which discussed comedy and laughter (and was made famous by Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose). But Zupančič draws on a whole range of philosophers and exemplars of comedy, from Aristophanes, Molière, Hegel, Freud, and Lacan to George W. Bush and Borat. She distinguishes incisively between comedy and ideologically imposed, “naturalized” cheerfulness. Real, subversive comedy thrives on the short circuits that establish an immediate connection between heterogeneous orders. Zupančič examines the mechanisms and processes by which comedy lets the odd one in.


Alenka Zupančič is a Slovene philosopher and psychoanalytic social theorist. She works as Senior Researcher at the Graduate School of Philosophy, Scientific Research Center for the Slovene Academy of Arts and Sciences (ZRC SAZU) in Ljubljana, Slovenia. She is also Professor of Philosophy at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. She is the author of numerous articles and books on psychoanalysis and philosophy, including What is Sex?Why Psychoanalysis?The Shortest Shadow: Nietzsche’s Philosophy of the Two and Ethics of the Real: Kant and Lacan. Her books have been translated into many languages.

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