Ancient Humour

CLST 205/3.0

This course explores the techniques by which humour was created in literature and the visual arts in antiquity. It also examines the social and psychological aspects of humour.

Description

To the best of my knowledge, this is the only course of its kind taught anywhere in the world (though you will find many courses on “ancient comedy”, which is a subset of drama). The course was put on the books in 1971 and actually taught for the first time in 1973-74. The original calendar entry for the course reads, “The Greeks and Romans were no less conscious than ourselves of the need to laugh at a world that offered all too much misery. This course will combine a series of readings (in translation) from ancient comedy, satire, romance, and literary parody, with discussions of the use of humour as relief in more serious genres such as epic, tragedy, and courtroom speeches.”

The objective of the course remains much as it was forty years ago, though perhaps with less emphasis on misery. I myself first taught this course to thirty-nine students in the fall of 1991. Eventually my students clamored for “web-notes” for the course, and these notes morphed in 2007 into the textbook I coauthored with Robert B. Marks (2nd revised edition, 2011), with illustrations by Laura E. Ludtke. In 2012 this became the first Humanities course at Queen’s to be reconfigured as a “blended-learning” course.

Evaluation

Online Quizzes50%
Online Participation in Activities and Discussions50%

Topics

  1. What is Humour?
  2. Why is it Funny?
  3. A Funny World
  4. The Earliest Humour
  5. Eccentrics Looking for a Story
  6. A Farmyard of Quacks
  7. A Sucker for Every Occasion
  8. Bursting the Bubble and Other Oddities
  9. The Sexual Dimension
  10. Epic Proportions
  11. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Agora
  12. The Roman Wit

Instructor

Welcome to Ancient Humour (CLST 205)!  I am very excited to be working with you this summer on such a fascinating topic!  I am currently finishing my PhD at the university of Toronto where I also obtained my BA and MA.  My dissertation is an examination of the role that ancient physiognomy - the belief that a person's moral character could be discerned from his or her physical appearance - played in discourses of persuasion among early Christian communities.  This fall I am beginning postdoctoral work here at Queen's.  The focus of this project is how ancient humour (in particular humorous invective) functioned as important component of early Christian discourses of identity formation.  For this work I look extensively an ancient types and functions of Greco-Roman humour, and I am currently in the process stockpiling ancient "your mother" jokes to assist in this research.   I have previously published and presented work on the use of ancient humour and topoi drawn from Greco-Roman comedies as a discursive strategy in early Christian texts, and my postdoc is an extension of this.

I'm looking forward to a great summer of working with you and this engrossing material!

Time Commitment

To complete the readings, assignments, and course activities, students can expect to spend, on average, about 10 to 12 hours per week on the course.

Course Resources

About SOLUS

SOLUS is Queen’s Student On-Line University System. You’ll have access to a SOLUS account once you become a Queen’s student. You’ll use SOLUS to register for courses, add and drop courses, update your contact information, view financial and academic information, and pay your tuition.

About MOODLE

Moodle is Queen's online learning platform. You'll log into Moodle to access your course. All materials related to your course—notes, readings, videos, recordings, discussion forums, assignments, quizzes, groupwork, tutorials, and help—will be on the Moodle site.

About Credit Units

Queen’s courses are weighted in credit units. A typical one-term course is worth 3.0 units, and a typical two-term course is worth 6.0 units. You combine these units to create your degree. A general (three-year) BA requires a total of 90 credit units.

Computer Requirements

To take an online course, you’ll need a good-quality computer (Windows XP/Vista/7, Pentium III, or Mac OS X 10.5, G4 or G5 processor, 256 MB RAM) with a high-speed internet connection, soundcard, speakers, and microphone, and up-to-date versions of free software (Explorer/Firefox, Java, Flash, Adobe Reader). See also Preparing For Your Course.

Dates/Deadlines

The deadlines for new applications to Queen’s are 1 April (for May summer term), 1 June (for July summer term), 1 August (for fall term), and 1 December (for winter term). All documents must be received by the 15th of the month following the deadline. You can register for a course up to one week after the start of the course. See also Dates and Deadlines.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees vary depending when you start, your year, faculty, and program. Fees for 2014-15 first-year Distance Career Arts & Science Canadian students are as follows: for a 3.0-unit course, $605.31; for a 6.0-unit course, $1210.62. See also Tuition and Payment.

Campus Bookstore

All textbooks can be purchased at Queen’s Campus Bookstore.

Non-Queen’s Students

All Queen’s Arts and Science Online courses are open to students at other universities. Before applying as a visiting student, request a Letter of Permission from your home university that states that you have permission to take the course and apply it to your degree. See also Apply.

Academic Integrity

Please see Queen’s policy statement on academic integrity for information on how to complete an online course honestly.