Philosophy and Comedy
Over the centuries, philosophers have dedicated much work to tragedy yet have largely neglected comedy. Under the influence of Romanticism, modern philosophy tends to understand subjectivity as tragic: autonomous, lonely, and defined as being toward death. Yet, comedy might offer a different understanding of subjectivity as communal and political, as engaged in dialogical action aimed at the resolution of a conflict. In this course, we will look at the relation between tragedy and comedy, the relation between Old Comedy of Aristophanes and New Comedy of Menander, Plautus, and Terence, and the modern appropriation of New Comedy in Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and Molire. We will discuss the philosophical significance of comedy by looking at its structure, plot, and characters, and will see the most important character as the comic Socratic thinker. The readings will include the works of Aristotle, Donatus, Hegel, August Schlegel, Northrop Frye, Corrigan, Segal, Agnes Heller, and others.