Toward a Motif-Index of Erotic Humor  

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"The conte-en-vers is therefore the real connecting link between the earlier folktale collections and the modern scientific collections, and is the real repository of the native and original humorous material for nearly two centuries (1650-1850), where little of an original nature and almost nothing native will be found in the jestbooks. The entire literature of the conte-en-vers, whether dated from the burlesque and Aretinesque academies of the 1550's in Italy, or from La Fontaine's contes, "tirés de Boccace" as he perfectly frankly admits, in the 1660's ... represents in sum an exceptionally large repertory of jokes and tales, purposely sought from the folk at a period when the jestbooks were already forgetful or contemptuous of folk sources, and far gone in sterile mutual plagiarism (Legman 1962, 237)."--"Toward a Motif-Index of Erotic Humor" (1962) by Gershon Legman

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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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