2004 Student Research Conference:
17th Annual Student Research Conference

Language & Literature

The Mad Worlds of Aristophanes: Comedic Utopia in Fifth Century Athens
John C. Sherwood
Dr. Bridget Thomas and Dr. Clifton Kreps, Faculty Mentors

Aristophanes’ popularity stems from the both the whimsical nature of his comedy and his adherence to social justice. His method of political satire has been consistent throughout his career; by emphasizing the ridiculous nature of progressive politics, he is able to both criticize institutions of the city and also appeal to an audience of comedy. On the Athenian stage, the young man displayed a gift for what Paul Cartledge calls “the theatre of the absurd”: Satire thinly disguised as fantastical escapist entertainment. The limitless possibilities of surrealism enabled Aristophanes to create whole new worlds within his plays and to populate them with lively and entertaining characters. By the use of fantasy and utopia in works such as The Acharnians, The Wasps, and The Birds, the playwright is able to indulge both his satirical and comedic natures, thus alienating neither his audience nor his principles of social criticism.

Keywords: Utopia, Comedy, Satire, Athens, Politics, Allegory, Aristophanes, Pelopponesian War

Topic(s):Classics

Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 34-3
Location: VH 1304
Time: 2:45

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