Twelve Jokes from (if not by) Sigmund Freud

In 1905, Sigmund Freud published his book-length study, Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious. Here are some of the jokes Freud includes as part of his analysis, in the order in which they appear in the book.

Source: The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud. Translated and Edited by A. A. Brill, New York: The Modern Library, 1995 (orig. 1938). Except where noted, I have tinkered with Brill’s versions of the jokes without affecting Freud’s (or Henny Youngman’s) accompanying propositions, the subject of a forthcoming post.

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Brooks and Poetic Language

  • “But the poet has no one term. Even if he had a polysyllabic technical term, the term would not provide the solution for his problem.” Cleanth Brooks.

Cleanth Brooks (1906-1994), a major figure in American New Criticism, here explains that ambiguity, paradox, tension, and connotation are all central to poetic language. The specific poet in question is Wordsworth, who, in one of his sonnets, describes the evening as both “breathless” and “calm.” A paradox? Brooks suggests that “there is no final contradiction, to be sure: it is that kind of calm and that kind of excitement, and the two states may well occur together. But the poet has no one term. . . .” In other words, other words won’t do. Poets need readers to experience the clash and harmony of many terms in order to understand and feel “one” concept. For more, see Brooks’s essay, “The Language of Paradox” in The Well-Wrought Urn (1947), and Wordsworth’s poem, “It is a beauteous evening, calm and free.” (Originally posted April 10, 2012)