The Consolations of Humor and Other Folklore Essays unfolds as a series of questions, commentaries, and criticisms of the analysis, interpretation, and explanation of folklore. Can we confidently regard jokes as the catharsis of sexual and aggressive impulses? What is the basis for characterizing a joke as Jewish or Scottish or Japanese? What do we really know about “dirty jokes”? How is a text or behavior constructed so that it is perceived as humorous? Can we get a computer to reliably recognize jokes? What is the relevance of memetics and a Darwinian paradigm to understanding folklore change over time? Can we identify laws operating in the realm of folklore? How can the marginalization, extinction, or continuity of traditions be explained? In the course of addressing these questions, Elliott Oring identifies some fundamental problems, brings new evidence and observations to the discussion, and proffers some original and startling insights.
While recognizing the study of jokes and other forms of folklore as a humanistic endeavor, Oring believes in the relevance of a scientific perspective to the enterprise. He values clear definitions, tests of hypotheses and theories, empirical evidence, experiment, and the search for laws. Written in a sophisticated yet accessible style, The Consolations of Humor and Other Folklore Essays stimulates both scholars and students alike and contributes to the creation of a more robust folkloristics in the twenty-first century.