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The Joke Cycle Island of Cannibals: Structure, Functions, Messages

Keywords: auto-racism , cannibals , folklore , genre , humour , joke , jokelore

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The author argues that the fundamental interdependence between structure and meaning in the joke can be outlined only if the joke cycle is chosen as a main research topic. As an example, the joke cycle Island of cannibals is analysed. The specific features of the cycle are: people from three emblematic communities and the cannibals as characters; an initial frame and their successive episodes; the trial; the gradation.The analysis uncovers the hidden meaning of every specific feature, posing questions about their function. Why is it that the joke must include three successive episodes? The behaviour of the first two characters creates an expectation of a normal reaction of the third character, destroyed at the point of the joke. What is the function of the trial? The trial is a specific rite of passage, etc. These steps help to uncover the hidden meaning of the joke cycle: the “Our” (here – the Bulgarian) character succeeds in proving that he has the cultural competence to become a member of the cannibal society because we are uncivilised, aggressive, “cannibals”… The conclusion is that these jokes release masochistic impulses and they are aimed not at the “Others”, but at “Us”, or, this is a specific type of auto-racism.


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