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The comedian as critic : Greek old comedy and poetics /
Matthew Wright.
London : Bristol Classical Press, 2012.
xi, 238 p. ; 25 cm.
1780930291 (hbk.), 9781780930299 (hbk.)
More Details
London : Bristol Classical Press, 2012.
1780930291 (hbk.)
9781780930299 (hbk.)
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references (p. 211-223) and indexes.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2013-01-01:
Aristophanes's hilarious travesties of Euripides are well known, but was Aristophanes engaging in literary criticism? Wright (Univ. of Exeter, UK) argues that he was, and that he and his fellow comic poets in the fifth century BCE were directing their humor in part to a sophisticated segment of the audience, people who were familiar not just with oral performances but also with written texts; as he puts it, the poets were "leaning heavily towards the idea of a reading culture." Of course, they were canny chaps: "We can never trust a single word that is said by anyone in a comedy," Wright writes, but adds that this is their way of "identifying authorship and authority as distinct topics of interest to the critic." The comic poets question the social usefulness of literature, ridicule poetic competitions and prizes, revel in irony (they claim novelty even as they purvey the oldest jokes), and use metaphors as a tool for evaluating literature, which also makes them, in Wright's words, "hard to pin down." The book is entertainingly written and makes a good case for taking the comedians as serious men of letters--but with a large grain of (Attic) salt. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. D. Konstan New York University
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, January 2013
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Main Description
Some of the best evidence for the early development of literary criticism before Plato and Aristotle comes from Athenian Old Comedy. Playwrights such as Eupolis, Cratinus, Aristophanes and others wrote numerous comedies on literary themes, commented on their own poetry and that of their rivals, and played around with ideas and theories from the contemporary intellectual scene. How can we make use of the evidence of comedy? Why were the comic poets so preoccupied with questions of poetics? What criteria emerge from comedy for the evaluation of literature? What do the ancient comedians' jokes say about their own literary tastes and those of their audience? How do different types of readers in antiquity evaluate texts, and what are the similarities and differences between 'popular' and 'professional' literary criticism? Does Greek comedy have anything serious to say about the authors and texts it criticizes? How can the comedians be related to the later literary-critical tradition represented by Plato, Aristotle and subsequent writers? This book attempts to answer these questions by examining comedy in its social and intellectual context, and by using approaches from modern literary theory to cast light on the ancient material.

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