LINGUIST List 26.2856

Wed Jun 10 2015

Books: The Semiotics of Clowns and Clowning: Bouissac

Editor for this issue: Sara Couture <>

Date: 06-Jun-2015
From: Lianna Iwanikiw <>
Subject: The Semiotics of Clowns and Clowning: Bouissac
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Title: The Semiotics of Clowns and Clowning
Subtitle: Rituals of Transgression and the Theory of Laughter
Series Title: Bloomsbury Advances in Semiotics
Published: 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (formerly The Continuum International Publishing Group)

Book URL:

Author: Paul Bouissac
Electronic: ISBN: 9781472525086 Pages: 272 Price: U.K. £ 24.99 Comment: EPUB
Electronic: ISBN: 9781472531117 Pages: 272 Price: U.K. £ 24.99 Comment: PDF
Hardback: ISBN: 9781472521736 Pages: 232 Price: U.K. £ 75.99
Paperback: ISBN: 9781472532787 Pages: 232 Price: U.K. £ 24.99

During the last 300 years circus clowns have emerged as powerful cultural icons. This is the first semiotic analysis of the range of make-up and costumes through which the clowns' performing identities have been established and go on developing. It also examines what Bouissac terms 'micronarratives' - narrative meanings that clowns generate through their acts, dialogues and gestures.

Putting a repertory of clown performances under the semiotic microscope leads to the conclusion that the performances are all interconnected and come from what might be termed a 'mythical matrix'. These micronarratives replicate in context-sensitive forms a master narrative whose general theme refers to the emergence of cultures and constraints that they place upon instinctual behaviour.

From this vantage point, each performance can be considered as a ritual which re-enacts the primitive violence inherent in all cultures and the temporary resolutions which must be negotiated as the outcome. Why do these acts of transgression and re-integration then trigger laughter and wonder? What kind of mirror does this put up to society? In a masterful semiotic analysis, Bouissac delves into decades of research to answer these questions.

Linguistic Field(s): Anthropological Linguistics
                            Cognitive Science

Written In: English (eng)

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