Freud Resources
> 1905c

Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious

Freud, Sigmund 1905c, Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious, SE 8, trs. from Der Witz und seine Beziehung zum Unbewussten, first edition Deuticke, Leipzig & Vienna, GW 5.

Page numbers in SE 8 are 1(or 3?)-236, and in my Routledge paperback (also Strachey) 3-236. So I guess the pages are identical.

Laplanche & Pontalis:
At all events, if dreams operate by condensation, it is not only in order to outwit the censorship, for condensation is a propensity of unconscious thought. The primary process enshrines those preconditions (free, unbound energy*; the tendency towards perceptual identity*) which permit and facilitate condensation. Unconscious wishes are thus subjected to it from the start, while preconscious thoughts—which are "drawn into the unconscious"—are liable to condensation subsequent to the action of the censorship. Is it possible to determine at what stage condensation occurs? It "must probably be pictured as a process stretching over the whole course of events till the perceptual region is reached. But in general we must be content to assume that all the forces which take part in the formation of dreams operate simultaneously".

Note Freud's attitude to 'Herr N.' (Josef Unger): like an attitude to a desired father. 22

Thread. The story about the thread, the 'rote Fadian' etc., recalls Bob's notion of a thread to run through the thesis. I wondered why he chose this image at this important moment. Maybe I will find about more about thread, as I read on. 22ff.

A wife is like an umbrella—sooner or later one takes a cab. 78, [110-111].

Karl Kraus. 27 (here called 'a witty writer', but only in the first German edition), 78. See also 1908d, 11: 200. ['Civilized' Sexual Morality and Modern Nervous Illness (1908d), 11: 177-204]

'As being on the borderline between a joke and a parapraxis.' 27n. Cf. 1901b, 6, ch 6(B): 19ff.

Jewish jokes:

[GG:] The first Jewish joke that Freud introduces in the Jokes book is explicitly about antisemitism: it is in fact a play on the word: antisemitism/antesemitism, thus announcing one of Freud's interests in jokes concerned with Jews.

He heard a gentleman who was himself born a Jew make a spiteful remark about the Jewish character. "Herr Hofrat", he said, "your antesemitism was well-known to me; your antisemitism is new to me." 33

It is one of the "bath jokes" which treat of the Galician Jews' aversion to baths. For we do not insist upon a patent of nobility from our examples. We make no enquiries about their origin but only about their efficiency—whether they are capable of making us laugh and whether they deserve our theoretical interest. And both these two requirements are best fulfilled precisely by Jewish jokes. 49 See also 111 ff.

It is again a Jewish joke [the salmon mayonnaise joke]; but this time it is only the setting that is Jewish, the core belongs to humanity in general.

[GG:] The first [Jewish joke] is to do with the play on words 'taking a bath'. ("What? Is there one missing.") Freud, despite having announced that the joke 'treat[s] of the Galician Jews' aversion to baths' claims that 'it is only the setting that is Jewish, the core belongs to humanity in general.'

First we must give a name to the technique brought to light in it. I propose to describe it as "displacement", since its essence lies in the diversion of the train of thought, the displacement of the psychical emphasis on to a topic other than the opening one. 51

condensation: from 19 onwards: many references
displacement: from 51 onwards: many references

I doubt if we are in a position to undertake anything without having an intention in view. If we do not require our mental apparatus [96] at the moment for supplying one of our indispensable satisfactions, we allow it itself to work in the direction of pleasure and we seek to derive pleasure from its own activity. 95-6

… we hold firmly to the view that the joke-technique and the tendency towards economy by which it is partly governed (p. 42 ff.) have been brought into connection with the production of pleasure. 96

It is a further relevant fact that smut is directed to a particular person, by whom one is sexually excited and who, on hearing it, is expected to become aware of the speaker's excitement and as a result to become sexually excited in turn. Instead of this excitement the other person may be led to feel shame or embarrassment, which is only a reaction against the excitement and, in a roundabout way, is an admission of it. Smut is thus originally directed towards women and may be equated with attempts at seduction. If a man in a company of men enjoys telling or listening to smut, the original situation, which owing to social inhibitions cannot be realized, is at the same time imagined. A person who laughs at smut that he hears is laughing as though he were the spectator of an act of sexual aggression. 97

Smut is like an exposure of the sexually different person to whom it is directed. By the utterance of the obscene words it compels the person who is assailed to imagine the part of the body or the procedure in question and shows her that the assailant is himself imagining it. It cannot be doubted that the desire to see what is sexual exposed is the original motive of smut. … A desire to see the organs peculiar to each sex exposed is one of the original components of our libido. It may itself be a substitute for something earlier and go back to a hypothetical primary desire to touch the sexual parts. As so often, looking has replaced touching. 98

And here at last we can understand what it is that jokes [101] achieve in the service of the purpose. They make possible the satisfaction of an instinct (whether lustful or hostile) in the face of an obstacle that stands in its way. They circumvent this obstacle and in that way draw pleasure from a source which the obstacle had made inaccessible. The obstacle standing in the way is in reality nothing other than women's incapacity to tolerate undisguised sexuality, an incapacity correspondingly increased with a rise in the educational and social level. The woman who is thought of as having been present in the initial situation is afterwards retained as though she were still present, … or in her absence her influence still has an intimidating effect on the men. 100-1

… repression … civilization … censorship …

There is no more personal claim than that for sexual freedom and at no point has civilization tried to exercise severer suppression than in the sphere of sexuality. 110

A wife is like an umbrella—sooner or later one takes a cab. [78,] 110.

One marries in order to protect oneself against the temptations of sensuality, but it turns out nevertheless that marriage does not allow of the satisfaction of needs that are somewhat stronger than usual. 111

This rediscovery of what is familiar is pleasurable, and once more it is not difficult for us to recognize this pleasure as a pleasure in economy and to relate it to economy in psychical expenditure. 120

Groos (1899, 153) writes: "Recognition is always, unless it is too much mechanized (as, for instance, in dressing, …), linked with feelings of pleasure." 121

Under the influence of alcohol the grown man once more becomes a child, who finds pleasure in having the course of his thoughts freely at his disposal without paying regard to the compulsion of logic. 127

NB: This book is useful for its clear explanation of the methodology of dream interpretation, which Freud has to provide in order to be able to apply his approach to jokes (and humour, the comic, the jest, etc.)

Freud seems to me to be
1. representing himself as a philosopher, of the ilk of Bergson etc., and doing quite an encyclopædic number on humour, involving very complicated and fine distinctions between wit, jokes, humour, jests, the comic, and so on;
2. indicating the usefulness of the application of his new science of psycho-analysis to an example of the work of the unconscious;
3. showing the superiority of Viennese culture, with its control of and attitude to Witz.
As I write these notes ( I do not understand the difference (Differenz) that Freud refers to: the difference in psychical expenditure as a source of the comic. See the footnote to page 195, where it is suggested that it is a quantitative difference that is referred to.
I'll type out some of the last paragraph of the book, which is about economy—perhaps one of the clearest passages in all of Freud of the application of this idea (from the Project?) to analysis.

The pleasure in jokes has seemed to us to arise from an economy in expenditure upon inhibition, the pleasure in the comic from an economy upon ideation (upon cathexis) and the pleasure in humour from an economy in expenditure upon feeling. In all three modes of working of our mental apparatus the pleasure is derived from an economy. All three are agreed in representing methods of regaining from mental activity a pleasure which has in fact been lost through the development of that activity. For the euphoria which we endeavour to reach by these means is nothing other than the mood of a period of life in which we were accustomed to to deal with our psychical work in general with a small expenditure of energy—the mood of our childhood, when we were ignorant of the comic, when we were incapable of jokes and when we had no need of humour to make us feel happy in our life. 236 [end of book]

New: 17 May, 2015 | Now: 17 May, 2015 | Garry Gillard | garrygillard[at]