Philosophy in the fairground: Thoughts on madness and madness in thought in The Killing Joke

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Abstract:

This article aims at proposing a reading of the function of madness in Alan Moore's The Killing Joke and establishing a link between the graphic novel and philosophical thought on madness and rationality. The article focuses on the character of the Joker and on the intricacies of his relationship to madness as the element that inspires and informs the epistemological mode through which he perceives and organizes his knowledge of reality. Instead of addressing the question of whether the Joker is mad, the article seeks to answer the following questions: In what sense can madness be read as a force that epistemologically regulates the Joker's discourse? and Can the presence of madness be read as disrupting philosophical thought on madness? In order to address these questions, the philosophical debate on madness between Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida is laid out both in the attempt to establish a link between the two thinkers and The Killing Joke and to set the grounds for an investigation of madness and rationality in the graphic novel. It is argued that the presence of madness in the Joker's discourse elevates madness to the same status as reason, and hence creates the space for the denunciation of the complicity of the subject of thought.

Keywords: DERRIDA; FOUCAULT; MADNESS; PHILOSOPHY; RATIONALITY; REASON; THE KILLING JOKE

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/stic.2.1.69_1

Publication date: July 1, 2011

More about this publication?
  • Studies in Comics aims to describe the nature of comics, to identify the medium as a distinct art form, and to address the medium's formal properties. The emerging field of comics studies is a model for interdisciplinary research and in this spirit this journal welcomes all approaches. This journal is international in scope and provides an inclusive space in which researchers from all backgrounds can present new thinking on comics to a global audience. The journal will promote the close analysis of the comics page/text using a variety of methodologies. Its specific goal, however, is to expand the relationship between comics and theory and to articulate a "theory of comics". The journal also includes reviews of new comics, criticism, and exhibitions, and a dedicated online space for cutting-edge and emergent creative work. 
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