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Unit information: Comedy in 2014/15

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Unit name Comedy
Unit code CLAS12370
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Liveley
Open unit status Open




School/department Department of Classics & Ancient History
Faculty Faculty of Arts


Can we take the comedy of ancient Greece and Rome seriously? In this unit we will examine a range of comic and satiric discourse in the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome to discover how laughter functioned in antiquity both as subversive political critique and conservative social commentary. Theoretical readings on comic violence, carnival, and body humour will inform our seminar discussions and textual analyses on Homer, Aristophanes, Menander, Plautus, Terence, Horace, and Juvenal. Throughout the unit we will compare and contrast the classical tradition of comedy with modern comedic discourse including political satire, live comedy performance, TV sitcoms and cartoons. The course will include a field trip to see live ‘stand-up’ comedy performances.

Intended learning outcomes

Successful students will have:

  • have developed a detailed knowledge and in-depth understanding of comedy in the ancient world; its uses and contexts and an awareness of how these change over time.
  • be able to analyse critically the comedic texts of the ancient world and how they functioned in antiquity both as subversive political critique and conservative social commentary.
  • Be able to use the knowledge acquired in lectures and through their own researches to construct coherent, relevant and persuasive arguments on different aspects of the subject.
  • Have had an opportunity to further develop their skills in written communication.

Teaching details

2 weekly lectures including discussion

Assessment Details

One summative coursework essay of 2,000 words (worth 50%), and a 90 minute examination (worth 50%). Both elements will assess ILOs (1) (2) (3) and (4). The coursework essay in particular will offer students the opportunity to demonstrate ILO (3) and (4).

Reading and References

  • Aristophanes, Wasps, The Poet and the Women
  • Plautus, The Pot of Gold, Pseudolus
  • Terence,The Mother-in-law
  • M.S. Silk, Aristophanes and the definition of comedy
  • C. Segal, Roman Laughter
  • N. Lowe, Comedy