From "Ha he hi ho hu. Mummum" to "Haw! Hell! Haw!": Listening to laughter in Joyce and Beckett

Adrienne Janus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The laughter heard throughout Joyce and Beckett’s texts is not merely a side-effect of humour, comedy or irony. It is rather a sound-effect, one whose impact upon the language of the text, and upon the body of the listening reader, offers productive interference to the ‘silent practices’ of writing and reading traditionally belonging to the novel and the hermeneutic practices associated with it. In attempting to formulate the impact of laughter in productive (rather than in destructive or deconstructive) terms, this analysis of laughter in Joyce and Beckett’s work turns away from Freud and the psychoanalytic treatments of laughter that still tend to dominate criticism. Instead, it introduces a series of German theorists -- from Helmuth Plessner to Peter Sloterdijk -- who, despite their signal importance to this aspect of Joyce and Beckett’s work, have for the most part not been translated into English.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144-166
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Modern Literature
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2009


  • listening
  • laughter
  • sound-effects
  • non-hermeneutic
  • body


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