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Philosophy in the Fairground: Thoughts on Madness and Madness in Thought in “The Killing Joke”


An exploration of the functioning of madness in The Killing Joke.

Valereto, Deneb Kozikoski. “Philosophy in the Fairground: Thoughts on Madness and Madness in Thought in The Killing Joke.” Studies in Comics 2.1 (2011): 69–80.

This article proposes a reading of the function of madness in Alan Moore’s (b.1953) 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? Can the presence of madness be read as disrupting philosophical thought on madness? In order to address these questions, the 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.

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