Jean Lorrain: Humor as Vector of Tension in the Fantastic Literature

Fábio Lucas Pierini

Abstract

Fantastic literature is usually associated with fear, be it the fear of death, of violence, of pain, and of suffering, as if supernatural events must naturally be evil. Similarly, the human mind denies the possibility of humoristic elements in fantastic narratives, since laughter and fear are supposedly incompatible. However, in this study we understand fear and laughter as antagonist but complementary forces, once both feed on each other: we laugh at the other because he fears something we don’t; or we laugh at ourselves when we find out the reason of our own fear is overcome. Hence, laughter can be understood as a means of avoiding any connection between the one who laughs and a threat, be it in a preventive way (before or during the supernatural event) or a retrospective way (after the threatening situation). Considering Jean Lorrain’s (1855-1906) «Lanterne magique» (1891) and «L’égregore» (1891), humor is presented in opposition to the supernatural reality, hidden under the veil of ordinary reality in which the characters live. Humor is, therefore, the vector of tension in the fantastic narrative, opposing itself skeptically and ironically to the occultist interpretation made by one of the characters about the attitudes and habits of the atendees of Parisian high society of the belle-époque.

Keywords

Jean Lorrain, Fantastic Narrative, Humor

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Copyright (c) 2018 Fábio Lucas Pierini