Wednesday, February 18, 2009

On Virginia Woolf & Jokes about God

I thought that this past exchange with a student regarding Virginia Woolf's Jacob's Room may be of wider benefit.

I am hoping to use Jacob's Room my paper topic and I came to the part in the novel about the Scilly Isles and how they "shake the very foundations of scepticism and lead to jokes about God" (42). I remember you had said something in lecture that provided a lot of insight into this passage and I can't remember exactly what it was, perhaps you could remind me?

Well, on the principles of the Freudianity which underlies Jacob's Room, laughter is in part how human beings react to uncomfortable encroachment or threats or perceived danger to deeply-seated beliefs & values. In the jargon of Freud, this is covered under the concept of tabou. Thus, where the rises of the Scilly Isles invoke the sense of the noumenal which similar British phenomena are recorded to have done through so much of the nation's literature and folk tales, forms of disbelief (such as scepticism) among vestigal Victorian and Edwardian casts of mind are challenged. One result of this, then, is internal discomfort, impinging on the individual's idea of God -- still strong by virtue of its historical foundation in the national character -- and producing uncomfortable jokes as a (Freudian) means of dealing with the inner dis-ease.

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