Humor, a topic that engaged Sigmund Freud both early and late in his career, is richly intertwined with character, with creativity, and with the theory and practice of psychoanalytic therapy. Yet, until very recently, analysts ignored Freud's lead and relegated humor to the periphery of their concerns. Humor and Psyche not only remedies previous neglect of the role of humor in the psychoanalytic situation but opens to a broad and balanced consideration of the role of humor in psychological life.
Section I provides historical and theoretical perspectives on the concept of humor. Contributors review Freudian and post-Freudian theories of humor (Bergmann), address the inseparability of humor and play (Sanville), adumbrate a postmodernist perspective on humor (Barratt), and focus on the unique cognitive and affective properties of humor (Grotstein). In Section II contributors turn to the relationship of humor to various aspects of the therapeutic process, including the relationship of humor to transference interpretation (Baker), the enlivening effects of humor on the therapeutic process (Giovacchini), and the multiple meanings of humorous exchanges between therapists and patients (Meissner). Section III concludes the volume with three fascinating essays on the relationship of humor to character and creativity. They focus, respectively, on the role of humor in the 25-year correspondence of Freud and Sándor Ferenczi (Dupont), on the interweaving of D. W. Winnicott's comic spirit and theoretical innovations (Rodman), and on the relationship between humor and creativity in the music of the American composer Charles Ives (Feder).
Taken together, the contributors to Humor and Psyche reestablish the importance of humor as a topic of psychotherapeutic relevance more than 70 years after Freud's final essay on the topic. And this relevance, they clearly show, is two-sided: whereas psychoanalytic approaches help us understand humor as a complex developmental achievement, humor per se infuses therapy and other human endeavors with vitality, playfulness, and creativity. Delightfully readable from beginning to end, Humor and Psyche edifies as it entertains. Editor James Barron has succeeded in compiling a collection that offers serious insights into our common propensity to be less than serious in the most human of ways.
Table of Contents
James W. Barron
Part 1: HISTORICAL AND PHILOSOPHICAL PERSPECTIVES
1 The Psychoanalytic Struggle to Solve the Mystery of Humor: A Historical Survey
Martin S. Bergmann
2 Humor and Play
3 Cracks: On Castration, Death, and Laughter
Barnaby B. Barrett
4 Humor and Its Relation to the Unconscious
James S. Grotstein
Part 2: THERAPEUTIC PROCESS
5 The Delicate Balance Between the Use and Abuse of Humor in the Psychoanalytic Setting
6 Humor, the Transitional Space, and the Therapeutic Process
Peter L. Giovacchini
7 Humor Is a Funny Thing: Dimensions of the Therapeutic Relationship
W. W. Meissner
Part 3: CHARACTER AND CREATIVITY
8 Humor in the Freud-Ferenczi Correspondence
9 Winnicott's Laughter
10 This Scherzo Is [Not] a Joke
James W. Barron