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Politics and Anti-Realism in Athenian Old Comedy

Ian Ruffell

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199587216
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731297 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199587216.001.0001

Series: Oxford Classical Monographs

Politics and Anti-Realism in Athenian Old Comedy

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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, but has proved persistently problematic for critics. This book sets the impossible centre-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 and social 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 in other traditions. This model emphasises 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 a special case of comic impossibility and one that intensifies and consolidates audience response. The ongoing 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 comic world and a demonstration that comic anti-realism has the political and conceptual measure of its more widely-recognized and supposedly realist rivals.

Keywords: comedy; Aristophanes; humour; plot; metatheatre; parody; intertextuality; competition; semiotics; politics; satire; fictional worlds; impossibility; Athens; democracy

Book.  512 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Classical Literature

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Table of Contents

Tripping Over the Light Fantastic in Politics and Anti-Realism in Athenian Old Comedy

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Possible Worlds and Comic Fictions in Politics and Anti-Realism in Athenian Old Comedy

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On Eating Cake: Joke Semiotics in Politics and Anti-Realism in Athenian Old Comedy

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Comic Motivation: Jokes and Episodic Plot in Politics and Anti-Realism in Athenian Old Comedy

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Comic Networks: Story and Argument in Politics and Anti-Realism in Athenian Old Comedy

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Entering the Metaverse: Comic Self-Reference in Politics and Anti-Realism in Athenian Old Comedy

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Flights of Fancy: Tragic Myth and Comic Logos in Politics and Anti-Realism in Athenian Old Comedy

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A Total Write-Off: Continuity and Competition in Politics and Anti-Realism in Athenian Old Comedy

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Conclusion: Politics, Ideology, and Old Comedy in Politics and Anti-Realism in Athenian Old Comedy

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