In Angela Carter’s 1979 tale “The Tiger’s Bride,” the protagonist reveals a tiger’s fur growing underneath her skin under a raucous laughter that literally brings the walls of patriarchal dominance over women and nature crumbling down. After all, bestiality is a “disturbingly and pleasurably tight coupling,” as Donna Haraway reminds us in her 1985 “Cyborg Manifesto,” which itself is shot through with its own ironic, blasphemous laughter that celebrates the joys of confusing boundaries between human and non-human nature. Both Carter and Haraway thus offer early instances of feminist ecological perspectives that derive their critical force from laughter. This paper explores this laughter, which is particularly striking in a field focused on environmental crisis and the destructive domination of nature, and thus hardly given to humorous relief considering the current environmental crisis. Working with concepts such as the “undomesticated” (Stacy Alaimo) or the “blasphemous” (Donna Haraway), this paper explores how the experience of cross-species and ecologically embedded laughter can inspire forms of agency that do not seek mastery over non-human nature, but participation in it. Ecofeminist laughter is subversive when it gestures beyond the human. This paper argues that the laughter of tricksters such as Donna Haraway’s cyborgs or Angela Carter’s trans-species transformations open up innovative ways of embedding the human into ecologies in adaptive and sustainable ways. It asks how an ecocriticism of laughter can chart out ways to remain “troublesome” (Donna Haraway), responsive and reponse-able on a globe caught in an ecological breakdown.
I presented this paper at the conference On Laughter, at the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies, on July 11, 2019.