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ROBERT DOISNEAU’S OBLIQUE REGARD

“THE MAN WHO FEELS,” said Horace Walpole in a celebrated mot, “will see life as a tragedy; the man who thinks will view it as a comedy.” We’re discouraged from analyzing comedy because rational words seem always to trail behind and to betray the spirit of the subject. If Walpole was right, though, there may be an element of calculated reason that aids a comic view, a slow process that nourishes a fast humor.

What if it’s said: “We think, therefore we must eventually laugh”? Thought can introduce us to the comic because it comprehends how often the vanities of the ego can be tripped up by the realities of the world. It’s not as if the comic insight is basically unkind but rather that it’s detached from human fate. The critical motion of comedy disengages us from our limitations and frustrations, and those of others. Once discovered, however, the actual constraints on our powers and resources

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