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Perspective by Incongruity

A — a couple of examples that I can give in the — that I cite there that I might mention. I don’t happen to have the book with me but I can remember that — a — a range of them in there. And that is — that — the — take Veblen’s concept of trained incapacity.

Now — now your natural tendency is training is in one category and incapacity is in another. You think of them as — as mutually exclusive. The whole — the whole trick here was to — was to jump those across. Especially where you could speak of incapacity, as — as training itself as a form of incapacity. And the — and another one I recall that Elliot used in one place where he spoke of decadent athleticism. Where usually you think of athletics in the healthy category and decadence in another category. But by putting those together, you see, across there it gives you what I would call a “perspective by incongruity.” And then you can get — and I think this is, oh the whole essence of the — the whole, surrealist line of — of breaking down your categories in that way.

I had a — among my list of a — of a — modes of lining up vocabulary, the remarkable thing is I completely forgot to put that in my list, but I tend to go back and do it on the basis of — of each statement. And you’ll see that it is — it worked out in quite some length in the — in this whole section on perspective by incongruity.

Kenneth Burke, Lecture at Drew University, 1969, Recently transcribed by Moi and Ed Appel

Can you tell that we and our friends were having a little too much fun with the Roland the other weekend? I should explain. . . . Years and years ago, this nerd’s idea of fun at a party was playing with all Grant’s pre-sets on his Casio keyboard. Having heard the BJU “University Hymn” over and over and over for sooooo many Commencements, the funniest thing I could think of was mangling that tune into a thousand variations — caricatures even. I mean, what would it look like if the regalia-laden BJU “family” bee-bopped into the FMA to scat singing? Or if we line-danced down the aisle to steel guitar? Or if we all slow danced to the same tune?

Burke would call it “perspective by incongruity” — taking two disparate “terms” (because what is music but another symbol system?) and shoving them together to make something completely new. It’s the “last place” of “freedom,” Burke even says in that 1969 2-hour lecture I just transcribed. It is, at the very least, a source of comedy that keeps us from being too hopelessly ourselves, as Burke would also say.

And so the obsession began way back in . . . oh, 1990, I guess. And now I share it with you this latest one, “Safe Sax at the Bob.”

Safe Sax at the Bob

2 thoughts on “Perspective by Incongruity

  1. Some random thoughts:

    I think life is easier with a sense of humor.

    There’s power in taking a symbol of oppression and turning it upside down. Christ did that with the “turn the other cheek” comment.

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