After the Laughter

Educational Philosophy and Theory 46 (2):1-12 (2014)
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Abstract

We humans laugh often and it is not always because something is funny. We laugh in the face of the pathetic or the powerless; sometimes we laugh at our own powerlessness or pathos.In short, we laugh at both the comical and the difficult. Here I am especially interested in the laughter that is sparked by what is difficult and how that laughter—and all laughter—breaks through to mark a range of emotional states: fear, nervousness, shame, confusion and others not viewed as positive, as well as joy, delight, interest, relief and other states that are viewed as positive. I also am interested in understanding what and how laughter reveals and what and how it conceals. As I explore both interests in this article, I make a compound point about laughter in educational settings: that laughter marks a breakdown of experience and that same laughter creates space for reflective listening and thinking, for diffusion of difficult affect, and for the disruption of habit that makes growth possible if that laughter is taken seriously.

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