Politics and Anti-Realism in Athenian Old Comedy: The Art of the Impossible

Hardcover | January 29, 2012

byIan Ruffell

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The collision of politics and claims of political intervention with the fantastic, absurd, and impossible is characteristic of the Athenian comic drama of the late fifth and early fourth century BCE, and has proved persistently problematic for critics. This book sets the impossiblecentre-stage and argues that comic impossibility should not be ignored in political readings or, conversely, used as a reason for excluding comedy from political interventions, but that anti-realism and the absurd are precisely the mechanisms through which this sort of comedy had political andsocial effects, manipulated its audience, and maintained its position in an environment of many competing political claims.Drawing on a variety of theoretical paradigms, from semiotics and humour theory through to ancient literary criticism, this book seeks to articulate a model of comic narrative and argument that can be applied equally both to the impossible worlds of Old Comedy and those of related forms of comedy inother traditions. This model emphasizes complex and provisional conceptual development over the linear and inflexible models of traditional models of comic narrative, and makes the joke and routine the base elements of comic plot. Pervasive comic self-reflexivity ('metatheatre') is presented as aspecial case of comic impossibility and one that intensifies and consolidates audience response. The on-going dialogue with comic rivals and performance forms provides both foundational matter for comic worlds and a competitive dimension to those worlds, an argument about the best kind of comicworld and a demonstration that comic anti-realism has the political and conceptual measure of its more widely-recognized and supposedly realist rivals.

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The collision of politics and claims of political intervention with the fantastic, absurd, and impossible is characteristic of the Athenian comic drama of the late fifth and early fourth century BCE, and has proved persistently problematic for critics. This book sets the impossiblecentre-stage and argues that comic impossibility should...

Ian Ruffell has been Lecturer in Classics at the University of Glasgow since 2001; previously a research fellow at Christ Church, Oxford (2000-01); lecturer at Wadham College, Oxford (1999-2000), and The Queen's College, Oxford (1998-9).

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Paperback|May 10 2012

$30.55 online$36.30list price(save 15%)
Format:HardcoverDimensions:488 pagesPublished:January 29, 2012Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199587213

ISBN - 13:9780199587216

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Table of Contents

1. Tripping over the light fantastic1.1 Plato's comedy store1.2 The art of the impossible2. Possible worlds and comic fictions2.1 Possible, impossible and fictional worlds2.2 Illusion, fiction and make-believe2.3 Between worlds: identification, mapping and reference2.4 Logic, cognition and emotion3. On eating cake: joke semiotics3.1 Is laughter central to komoidia?3.2 Metaphors and other jokes3.3 Towards a theory of the joke3.4 Summary4. Comic motivation: jokes and episodic plot4.1 Comic plot and narrative4.2 Jokes in narrative4.3 A dog's dinner: complex routines in Wasps4.4 Episodic plot5. Comic networks: story and argument5.1 Comic structure5.2 World, episode and argument: Akharnians5.3 Jokes, concepts and comic meaning: Knights5.4 How did we learn today?6. Entering the metaverse: comic self-reference6.1 Disruptive theory6.2 Thinking the unthinkable6.3 The limits of self-reference6.4 Chorus and consistency6.5 The comic multiplier6.6 Strangely significant worlds7. The role of the audience: ideology, identity and intensity7.1 Constructing the audience7.2 From worlds to stage: mapping audiences7.3 Dionysiac worlds/festive worlds7.4 Anti-realism, Metatheatre, and fantasy politics8. Flights of fancy: tragic myth and comic logos8.1 Parody, intertextuality and anti-realism8.2 Tragic and comic possibilities8.3 Parody, anti-realism and postmodernist poetics9. A total write-off: continuity and competition9.1 Comic intertextuality: iterability and innovation9.2 The comic multiverse: world, story and plot9.3 Comic populations: satire and stereotype9.4 What's so funny? About Peace and comic understanding9.5 Comic competition10. Conclusion: politics, ideology and Old ComedyIndex locorumGeneral index