Laughter, language, and hope : risibility as resistance in Elie Wiesel's Gates of the forest, Shusaku Endo's Silence, and Toni Morrison's Beloved / Jacqueline Aileen Bussie.
What does it mean to laugh at the horrible, or to laugh while one is suffering? And what is the theological and ethical significance of such laughter? Although traditional western theological discourse maintains that laughter is frivolous or irresponsible, this dissertation argues that the laughter of the oppressed can function as an invaluable mode of ethical and theological resistance in the face of radically negating oppression that has ruptured both language and traditional frameworks of belief. This research analyzes the transformative laughter in Elie Wiesel's Gates of the Forest, Shusaku Endo's Silence, and Toni Morrison's Beloved, three fictional narratives which each explore a particular religious tradition and case of historical oppression—the Holocaust, Japanese Christians' persecution, and African-American slavery, respectively. Employing a method that is literary-critical and phenomenological, this dissertation engages these three texts with the philosophical, theoretical, and theological texts of Emil Fackenheim, Kenneth Surin, Arthur Schopenhauer, James Cone, Patricia Hill Collins, Lawrence Levine, Mikhail Bahktin, and Jurgen Moltmann, among others. Ethically, this essay argues that the laughter of the marginalized interrupts the state and system of oppression. Such laughter ruptures oppression's paralysis by creatively positing an alternative mode-of-being-in-the-world that embodies protest and hope in the face of linguistic rupture and radical negation. Theologically, this essay argues that laughter is engendered by a conflict of narratives, particularly the conflict between the narrative of faith and the narrative of negativity that occurs in a historical encounter with evil. Laughter attests to the suffering believer's paradoxical, language-crippling struggle to hold both the narrative of faith and the narrative of negativity in dialectical relationship, thereby resisting despair, disbelief, and uncritical hope. Laughter thus interrupts the dualism of faith and doubt,
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