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What’s the catch? The Nexus of absurdist humour, incongruity, and characterisation in Joseph Heller’s catch-22

Olivier Couder (UGent)
(2017) NEOPHILOLOGUS. 101(3). p.495-511
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Abstract
Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22 (1961) details the absurdity of war and extensively makes use of humour to do so. Yet the structural role this characteristic humour fulfils has rarely been explored in depth. In this article, I focus on a specific type of humour, namely absurdist humour, which is traditionally defined as a form of humour where resolution of the underlying incongruity cannot be obtained. Drawing on cognitive theories of humour and on the concept of characterisation categories, the article goes on to describe the close-knit relationship between absurdist humour and characterisation in the novel. The analysis highlights the structural importance of absurdist humour both for the narrative structure of the novel as well as for a reader’s understanding and interpretation of Catch-22. The article illustrates that resolution can be achieved, contrary to the generally espoused viewpoint in humour studies, and that it is realised at the moment of interpretation. Understanding the mechanisms of absurdist humour, then, benefits our understanding of Heller’s classic as it forces readers to more closely consider the message conveyed by the novel.
Keywords
Literary absurd, Absurdist humour, Cognitive literary theory, Characterisation categories

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Citation

Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:

Chicago
Couder, Olivier. 2017. “What’s the Catch? The Nexus of Absurdist Humour, Incongruity, and Characterisation in Joseph Heller's Catch-22.” Neophilologus 101 (3): 495–511.
APA
Couder, O. (2017). What’s the catch? The Nexus of absurdist humour, incongruity, and characterisation in Joseph Heller's catch-22. NEOPHILOLOGUS, 101(3), 495–511.
Vancouver
1.
Couder O. What’s the catch? The Nexus of absurdist humour, incongruity, and characterisation in Joseph Heller's catch-22. NEOPHILOLOGUS. Springer Nature; 2017;101(3):495–511.
MLA
Couder, Olivier. “What’s the Catch? The Nexus of Absurdist Humour, Incongruity, and Characterisation in Joseph Heller's Catch-22.” NEOPHILOLOGUS 101.3 (2017): 495–511. Print.
@article{8523809,
  abstract     = {Joseph Heller{\textquoteright}s novel Catch-22 (1961) details the absurdity of war and
extensively makes use of humour to do so. Yet the structural role this characteristic
humour fulfils has rarely been explored in depth. In this article, I focus on a specific
type of humour, namely absurdist humour, which is traditionally defined as a form
of humour where resolution of the underlying incongruity cannot be obtained.
Drawing on cognitive theories of humour and on the concept of characterisation
categories, the article goes on to describe the close-knit relationship between
absurdist humour and characterisation in the novel. The analysis highlights the
structural importance of absurdist humour both for the narrative structure of the
novel as well as for a reader{\textquoteright}s understanding and interpretation of Catch-22. The
article illustrates that resolution can be achieved, contrary to the generally espoused
viewpoint in humour studies, and that it is realised at the moment of interpretation.
Understanding the mechanisms of absurdist humour, then, benefits our understanding
of Heller{\textquoteright}s classic as it forces readers to more closely consider the message
conveyed by the novel.},
  author       = {Couder, Olivier},
  issn         = {0028-2677},
  journal      = {NEOPHILOLOGUS},
  keyword      = {Literary absurd,Absurdist humour,Cognitive literary theory,Characterisation categories},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {3},
  pages        = {495--511},
  publisher    = {Springer Nature},
  title        = {What{\textquoteright}s the catch? The Nexus of absurdist humour, incongruity, and characterisation in Joseph Heller{\textquoteright}s catch-22},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11061-017-9524-x},
  volume       = {101},
  year         = {2017},
}

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