Toward a Motif-Index of Erotic Humor  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Toward a Motif-Index of Erotic Humor (1962) is a 22 page essay by Gershon Legman published in The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 75, No. 297, Symposium on Obscenity in Folklore (Jul. - Sep., 1962), pp. 227-248.

Overview and comparison to Stith Thompson's classification

In his notes to the ontology used in Rationale of the Dirty Joke, Gershon Legman points to a lack of a motif-index or tale-type analysis of erotic folktales, jokes and humor generally. He cites Stith Thompson's classification which leaves blank X700 – X799 because

" ... Thousands of obscene motifs in which there is no point but the obscenity itself might logically come at this point, but they are entirely beyond the scope of the present work. They form a literature to themselves, with its own periodicals and collections. In view of the possibility that it might become desirable to classify these motifs and place them within the present index, space has been left from X700 to X799 for such motifs (Thompson 1955-8, 5:514)."

Legman would have preferred, one gets the impression, to include the X700 [1] category and to exclude the S [2] category for example which is about unnatural cruelty.

Legman also adds that a collection of dirty jokes needs and ontology and taxonomy in order to give meaning to it.

The French conte-en-vers genre

In "Toward a Motif-Index of Erotic Humor" Gershon Legman devoted several pages to the French conte-en-vers genre. Legman underlined the significance of this genre in the context of folklore research.



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