Friday, November 7, 2008

The Nature of Comedy -- Essay 1

I had heard this course was challenging. Since I am way too susceptible to things resembling dares, I registered.

And then I saw the syllabus...reading two plays or more per week, a form I've struggled with in the past. An essay due every other week. And no advance info on the essay until the week before -- OMG, how was I going to get it all done?!

I had no idea, and no idea what I was in for...

Below is the intro to my first essay (sans MLA formatting.) If you'd like to read more than this bit, you can leave a comment to that effect, or email me at lwitzel {at} austin {dot} rr {dot} com. In any case, I'm glad you stopped by!

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The Two Plauti: Reflections on Seeing Double with Frye and Bakhtin

Plautus wrote his plays primarily for audiences who expected to be entertained (Slater 6), rather than for literary theorists and critics—so why consider his work through the lens of literary theory? More specifically, what is the relevance of literary theory to Plautus’ comedies The Brothers Menaechmus and The Haunted House? In this essay, I will briefly consider how two literary theorists, Northrop Frye and Mikhail Bakhtin, think about comedy; how applying their views to Plautus yields a doubling that recalls the comedic complications of Plautus’ same-named twins in The Brothers Menaechmus; and what this might tell us about the role of literary theory in relation to comedy.

Let us first consider Northrop Frye’s approach to literary theory. Frye believed the critic held the key to understanding art; in his view, artists could not understand and unlock the value of their own work, nor could the public, without the added perspective provided by criticism (Hart 56-64).

"The axiom of criticism must be, not that the poet does not know what he is talking about, but that he cannot talk about what he knows. To defend the right of criticism to exist at all, therefore, is to assume that criticism is a structure of thought and knowledge existing in its own right, with some measure of independence from the art it deals with." (Frye, Anatomy of Criticism, in Hart 59)

2 comments:

Knitting Painter Woman said...

You're going to be so cultured when your through. MORE than Yogurt, even!! My scientist husband had to read a bunch of restoration comedies, I'd read a bunch of Greek plays and between us we had some nifty discussions. You'll get the hang of it, I'm sure. Thanks for sharing.

mansuetude said...

i would really love to know what is on the reading list for this class...

mansuetude3d@gmail

after classes are over of course, if its not too much pain?