"The pleasure of fiends": Degenerate Laughter in Stoker's Dracula
I wish to suggest that in order to study laughter in horror fiction we must move beyond the paradigm that equates laughter with comedy. As humour critic Marcel Gutwirth notes, "laughter is not all bounty: it has its dark, its killing side... violence of some degree may well be of its essence, though held in check" (8). I hope to demonstrate that the horror of what I will term "monstrous laughter" in a text like Bram Stoker's Dracula is that the violent "dark side" of laughter is very deliberately not held in check. Like a contagion, it is released indiscriminately upon the world, threatening to contaminate the hearers – and by extension the readers of the text – with the perverse perspective of the laughing villains who find humour in murder and mayhem.
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