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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.
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.
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- What is Humour?
- Why is it Funny?
- A Funny World
- The Earliest Humour
- Eccentrics Looking for a Story
- A Farmyard of Quacks
- A Sucker for Every Occasion
- Bursting the Bubble and Other Oddities
- The Sexual Dimension
- Epic Proportions
- A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Agora
- The Roman Wit
Textbooks and Materials
CDS reserves the right to make changes to the required material list as received by the instructor before the course starts. Please refer to the Campus Bookstore website at http://www.campusbookstore.com/Textbooks/SearchEngine/ to obtain the most up-to-date list of required materials for this course before purchasing them.
- R. Drew Griffith and Robert B. Marks, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Agora: Ancient Greek and Roman Humour 2nd ed. Agora Harder! (Kingston: Legacy Books Press, 2011).
- W. Arrowsmith, R. Lattimore and D. Parker, Four Plays by Aristophanes (New York: Meridian, 1984).
- J.P. Sullivan, Petronius: the Satyricon and Seneca: the Apocolocyntosis revised ed. (London: Penguin, 2011) ISBN: 9780140448054
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.
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.
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.
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 vary depending when you start, your year, faculty, and program. Fees for 2013-14 first-year Distance Career Arts & Science Canadian students are as follows: for a 3.0-unit course, $597.70; for a 6.0-unit course, $1195.40. See also Tuition and Payment.
All textbooks can be purchased at Queen’s Campus Bookstore.
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.
Please see Queen’s policy statement on academic integrity for information on how to complete an online course honestly.