ABSTRACT

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is a 1963 comedy directed by Stanley Kramer, whereby a group of colorful characters clamor across California to find buried treasure. The film itself is a rollicking ride, though not wildly unforgettable – but I’ve always found the title especially memorable: perhaps it was an early/the earliest instance in which I was confronted with the stylistic power of repetition. But the movie title is interesting not just for its brilliant use of a literary device: it may, today, also be read as signifying multiple meanings of “mad” – perhaps even four key meanings (the amount of times the word appears in the title). For “mad” can signify insanity, e.g., a person is diagnosed as “being mad”; it can also refer to anger, e.g., a person “gets mad”; a third meaning is the colloquial or slang one, where the term indicates a chaotically enjoyable experience, e.g., someone “has a mad time” at a party (akin to “crazy” in the sense of “having a crazy time”). As for a fourth meaning? The word “mad” could also indicate the anti-rational, in other words, a madness that opposes Reason. The prefix “anti-” is crucial: there is that which might express but also exceed rationality or is more-than-rational or other-than-rational (e.g., love, faith, desire, etc.), which diverges from the logical but isn’t simply or automatically antithetical or hostile to it, thereby sharply differing from the anti-rational. The current work focuses on this fourth kind of madness: that it’s a “mad world” in the sense of a world hell-bent against Reason (which doesn’t preclude the world being mad in the other senses, including the positive slang one). It’s a mad world: the world is dominated by anti-thinking agents, systems, forces.