Ancient Humour - Online classics courses | Arts and Science ONLINE

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.

Please note: This course is typically offered in the summer term

Learning Outcomes

Topics at a Glance

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

Learning Outcomes

After completing CLST 205, students will be able to:

  1. Compare and contrast ancient and modern conceptions of humour
  2. Synthesize, evaluate and present a scholarly argument to their peers
  3. Respectfully debate and discuss with their peers opposing perspectives
  4. Illustrate with examples their own positions on a given topic
  5. Apply conceptions of humor to different ancient media 


Ancient humour is one of the lenses scholars can utilize to examine the culture of the ancient Mediterranean, and by contrast our own culture.  What is considered to be “funny” or humorous tells us much about the values and preconceptions of the lived experience of individuals and the broader community they are a part of.  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.  Throughout the semester students will compare ancient perspectives on humour with contemporary ones, and discuss how the similarities and differences reflect respective broader social norms. 

Each week there are podcasts and activities, which take the place of weekly lectures that students can access in onQ, in addition to the required readings.  


Summer 23: May - July
Course Dates: 
May 1 - July 21, 2023


15% - Beginnings and Endings (Individual with Discussion)
25% - Pop Culture Quacks (Individual with Peer Feedback)
30% - Pechakucha Presentation (Group* or Individual)
30% - Debate and Reflection (Individual with Discussion)

**Evaluation Subject to Change**

*Groupwork: Please note that you have a choice of whether to complete the Pechakucha Presentation independently or as a group. If you choose to do groupwork, the mark you receive for your group submission is contingent upon receiving satisfactory evaluations of your contributions. If you receive below 70% on peer evaluations, or if there is a significant discrepancy in the scores you receive from your peers, the teaching team will investigate further, and your grade may be reduced by up to 15%. You will be consulted in this process and will help determine what is fair. 



Time Commitment

Students can expect to spend approximately 10 hours a week (120 hours per term) in study, listening and online activity for this course.

Course Resources


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 OnQ

onQ is Queen's online learning platform. You'll log into onQ 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 onQ 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 or BSc requires a total of 90 credit units.

Computer Requirements

To take an online course, you’ll need a high speed internet connection as well as a microphone and speakers to be able to watch videos, hear sounds, and participate in interactive online activities. A webcam is recommended but not necessary.

System Requirements:

Computer Specifications

  • Windows 8.1 or newer
  • OSX 10.13 (High Sierra) or newer
  • Dual Core 2 GHz processor
  • 4 GB RAM
  • Soundcard
  • USB Headset
  • Webcam

Supported Browsers

  • Chrome (preferred - latest version)
  • Firefox (latest version)
  • Safari is not recommended as it causes several known issues in onQ
  • Edge is not recommended as it causes several known issues in onQ

Internet Connection

  • Wired high speed access: Cable or better
  • Wifi is not recommended


  • Latest version

Media Player

  • Flash (latest version)

Adobe Reader

  • Latest Version


The deadlines for new applications to Queen’s Arts and Science Online courses are in our Upcoming Application Dates section.

Grading Scheme

The information below is intended for undergraduate students in the Faculty of Arts and Science. Academic Regulations in other Faculties may differ.

Letter Grade Grade Point

GPA Calculators
Have your SOLUS grade report handy and then follow the link to the Arts and Science GPA calculators.

How does this affect my academics?
See the GPA and Academic Standing page.

Follow the link above for an explanation of how the GPA system affects such things as the Dean’s Honour List, requirements to graduate, and academic progression.

Frequently Asked Questions on the Grading Scheme
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Tuition Fees

Tuition fees vary depending when you start, your year, faculty, and program. Fees for Summer Term 2018 first-year Distance Career Arts & Science Domestic students are as follows: for a 3.0-unit course, $685.90; for a 6.0-unit course, $1371.80 See also Tuition and Fees.

Campus Bookstore

All textbooks, if required, 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.