clowns, fools, noddies, and pranksters

The fool's relation to boundaries is traditional and significant. From Sebastian Brandt's Die Narranschiff, an allegory which had an actual historical correlate in ships enlisted to transport fools from port to port, never disembarking, to Charlie Chaplin's classic chase scenes, the fool is the agent able to cross what others can't.

Folly and non-folly take up precisely the same relationship as intransitivity and transitivity and are a useful gauge of the flexibility and scope of this distinction. The fool's historic connections with magic also make it clear that the the intransitive is associated closely with religion, medicine, and rites of passage.

In William Willeford's excellent study, The Fool and His Sceptre, the point is made that folly is not simply a lack of reason, or a categorical opposite of reason, but the basis of reason to which reason must return, through formal catastrophies as well as incidental limitations. Elements of folly "written into" superficially reasonable expressions can provide the necessary "vent" to the poetic.

© 2012, Donald Kunze, all rights reserved