CLST 283 - Writing Intensive
Classical Comedy and Satire
Spring Semester 2003
In this Core Literature, Writing Intensive course
we will survey humorous literature of Greek and Roman antiquity.
What did they laugh at?
How did they use laughter to make social, political,
or philosophical commentary? What else was it good for?
What does their laughter tell us about the Greeks and Romans?
What does it tell us about us?
Our work will pursue four main aims (plus the fifth, of having fun
with all of them):
- To become familiar with some of the great literary works of Western
tradition that are also funny. Plays by Aristophanes, Menander,
Plautus, and Terence and satires (which we can read as dramatic
pieces) by Horace and Juvenal amused and astonished their
contemporaries. They have continued to influence new works, and to be
revived themselves in performance, ever since.
- To deepen our understanding of how humor has worked in the past,
and how it works for us now. Laughter both depends on subtle and
complex cultural cues, and transcendently characterizes human nature.
Our material, both remote and familiar, will give us new insights.
- To let the workings of humor show us more about the people and
societies that produced it. Uniquely among the traditional academic
fields, Classical Studies pursue holistic understanding of complete
civilizations: not just literature, not just history, not just
politics, not just visuality, not just religion, but all together, as
they really operate in any culture. The skills of multidimensional
inquiry and integrative analysis that Classical Studies foster will
serve you in every walk of life.
- To improve your writing. Expressing ideas in sentences, paragraphs,
and coherent essays, building cogent arguments, and sounding neat,
even elegant, will give you power to present yourself and your work
effectively, whatever you are doing.
Good Taste Alert
Much of Greco-Roman humor involves sex and gastro-intestinal functions,
sometimes very explicitly.
It also often involves insulting ridicule of individuals and groups.
Sometimes the categories overlap.
Not all of it is for everyone:
if you find this material unbearably offensive,
you may wish to study Classical Mythology, Tragedy, or Heroes and Epics instead.
Although we will read, study, and discuss this material in class,
considering what in it the Greeks and Romans found funny
and how they used humor, we must also keep an intellectual distance:
we live in a different world,
in which respect for others must be paramount in class and elsewhere.
It is not worth discussing whether the ancient Greeks and
Romans were "wrong" or "right";
we should consider how their senses of humor reveal their attitudes
and systems of values.
Monday - Wednesday - Friday, 1:30-2:20 PM
Damen Hall 441
Dr. Jacqueline Long
Office Hours: MWF 9:30-10:20 AM, Crown Center 553
- Moses Hadas, ed., The Complete Plays of Aristophanes
- Peter Meineck, tr., Aristophanes I: Wasps, Clouds, Birds
(Hackett) (superior translations of these three plays,
with good notes)
- Kenneth McLeish and J. Michael Walton, tr., Aristophanes
and Menander: New Comedy (Methuen) (not
necessarily a better translation than in the Hadas volume of
"Ecclesiazusae"="Women in Power", but this volume also includes two
plays by Menander we will also read)
- Douglass Parker and Deena Berg, tr., Plautus and Terence:
Five Comedies (Hackett)
- Niall Rudd, tr., The Satires of Horace and Persius
- Niall Rudd, tr., Juvenal: Satires (Oxford)
- William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White, The Elements of Style,
4th edn. (Longman)
Schedule of Reading Assignments and Topics
Policies and Assessment
Revised 9 January 2003 by