, Volume 92, Issue 3, pp 471-489
Date: 10 Jan 2008

Laughter as the Ultimate Epistemological Vehicle in the Hands of Till Eulenspiegel

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Abstract

One of the most fundamental experiences in human life is laughter, which carries numerous functions. Through a critical reading of a selection of tales about Till Eulenspiegel in this sixteenth-century chapbook, we can detect an epistemological function of laughter through which representatives of virtually every social class becomes the object of laughter insofar as they all reveal shortcomings and vices. But the laughter triggered by Eulenspiegel does not destroy or hurt badly; instead it invites the entire audience to join and to look into the mirror, which is, of course, also part of the protagonist’s name. Contrary to many other interpretations, this reading then suggests that the author (Hermen Bote?) pursued a similarly sarcastic-humorous attitude about the conditions of his time as many contemporaries (Brant, Montanus, Kirchhof, Lindener, etc.) and suggested to his listeners/readers to laugh with him as the best strategy to deconstruct the mask of illusion and thus to establish a basis for critical reflections about themselves and their society.