Theology, Comedy, Politics

 

Marcus Pound 
ISBN: 978-1506431628 
Fortress Press 2019 
Paperback 258 pp £12.99 
Pastoral Review bookshop £11.70 

Marcus Pound’s book is published in a series called Dispatches: Turning Points in Theology and Global Crises. Within this apocalyptic frame, theology and politics are firmly at home as disciplines that are used to tarrying with crisis. Comedy, however, seems like the ‘odd one in’ (to quote one of Pound’s key contemporary interlocutors for the book, Alenka Zupancic). So, as Pound writes in the preface, ‘What relevance has comedy for the global crises of modernity and the theological critique thereof?’  

In order to answer this question Pound must suspend our assumptions about comedy’s relation to truth. This involves uncovering three major ‘elisions’ of comedy from classical thought, theology and liturgy, re-occurring through history. What accounts for the forgetfulness of the Christian tradition towards the various examples of intensively theological and social comic practices in the late Middle Ages? What happened to the risus paschalis (a tradition obliging parish priests to include a joke in the Easter Day homily), the comic portrayals of Christ in the York mystery plays, or the yearly conference organized by the University of Paris purely on the question of whether or not Jesus laughed? Pound outlines the presuppositions that have had the effect of screening out these Church-sanctioned comic feasts. 

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