IPHS 392: Making Fun in Ancient Rome
This course will examine the different iterations of humor, pleasure, joy, and mockery in the culture of the Roman Empire. The course will draw on several different academic disciplines--including archaeology, epigraphy, and art history--but it is fundamentally an exercise in cultural history, grounded in the Roman literary sources. The goal of the course is twofold. First, to come to know Roman cultural life by surveying its many aspects from this particular perspective. Second, to consider the relationship of the different activities and cultural forms that are gathered together under the peculiar English term "fun." While there will be some discussion of academic theories of culture, this course will take the point of view that cultural history is essentially the practice of differentiating the universal from the particular. We want to understand what the Romans did for fun, how they made fun of each other, and what they found funny: our primary analytic method will be to figure out what we share with Rome and what it is about Roman culture that we find strange, incomprehensible, or abhorrent.
Readings will include comedy (Plautus); satire (Horace, Juvenal); novel-like stories, entertainments and fantasies (Lucian, Apuleius); and other things very lewd and even harder to classify (Petronius). Non-literary subjects will include dining and bathing, gambling, insult and invective, philosophical leisure, jokes, chariot racing, and gladiatorial games.
Some background in Roman history or literature, e.g. IPHS 113Y-114Y, CLAS 102, CLAS 112, CLAS 130, or some study of Latin or Greek, is recommended but not required.
Please note: this class qualifies as a cognate class in Classics, and may be counted toward the
History major. Meeting Time: (SPRING 2009) WF 1410-1530.