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This discussion of “Johnson and the essay” analyzes Johnson’s relationship with the essay – both his own idea of the essay and as compared with others’ practice in the form. After showing that the spirit of the essay is pervasive within Johnson’s writings and not confined to his major periodicals, the argument focuses on the special case of the periodical essay and draws attention to the moral and philosophical pertinence of The Rambler (Johnson’s “pure wine”), taking examples from his serious and comic modes. The account concludes by examining the experience of Johnson’s singular style and the fit between individual essays and the shape and meaning of the succession of papers overall. If Johnson’s essays do not resemble those of Michel de Montaigne in temper or structure, they are, in the case of The Rambler, a single-handed intellectual project of a similar order and a comparable endeavor in the art of self-founding.
The literary beginnings of the Italian vernacular are traditionally identified at the imperial court of Frederick II in Sicily, where a remarkable group of poets wrote love lyrics and innovated a new form – the sonnet – that would have a lasting impact on European verse. At seigneurial courts across the north of the peninsula, by contrast, the prevalent literary vernacular was Occitan. Recent archival discoveries, such as the Ravenna fragment, have helped to provide a glimpse of the earliest literary production in the north. Even if these fragments witness a beginning that did not develop into a literary tradition, they nonetheless represent valuable evidence of the complexity and texture of the earliest literary expressions in the Italian vernacular. This essay examines some of these fragments or, adopting Armando Petrucci’s term, ‘traces’, and highlights the sharp contrast in material terms that is found in the later Tuscan ‘songbooks’ or canzonieri, which witness almost all of the surviving lyric poetry of the Sicilian School. The essay concludes by looking at how Dante, after the comprehensive analysis of vernacular literature in the De vulgari eloquentia, writes a poem that overtly signals itself as a new vernacular beginning.
Comedies rely on the union of opposites – whether those opposites might be literally characters of two different races or oppositional ideas about the fate of the young nation. Comedy often rests on juxtapositions in which incongruity creates a sense of the absurd. However, with the distance of time, the humor becomes harder to read. It may be because the comedy now appears offensive to contemporary audiences in the ways it approaches material related to identity – whether it be race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion. This chapter explores a combination of American-authored comedies and popular British works that continued to circulate in the American repertoire throughout the early national period. It also touches on some forms of comedy – particularly circus and pantomime performance – that audiences imagined as more “democratic” and accessible.
Three Anglo–German Edwardian novels of Elizabeth von Arnim, Adventures of Elizabeth in Rügen (1904), Princess Priscilla’s Fortnight (1905), and Fräulein Schmidt and Mr Anstruther (1907), perform expatriate identity as theorised by Edward Said. Elizabeth and Her German Garden (1898), in contrast, is the most English of early novels by English-born German citizen von Arnim. The restlessness and contrapuntal perspectives of expatriate consciousness generate humour in the 1904 and 1905 novels, and in-depth adoption of an alternate German–Anglo subjectivity in Rose-Marie Schmidt. Fräulein Schmidt, von Arnim’s most sophisticated novel to that point, adopts the first-person epistolary narrative of a German professor’s daughter reared in a lower-middle-class home as she finds independence, self-respect, and a writer’s voice after being proposed to, then jilted, by a young Englishman. A subliminal narrative coursing beneath the surface of Rose-Marie’s letters limn the protagonist’s underlying psychological processes.
This chapter explores Cavendish’s career as a dramatist by examining the similarities and differences between her two volumes of drama, Playes (1662) and Plays Never Before Printed (1668). One of the plays in the 1668 volume, The Sociable Companions; or the Female Wits, recycles and adapts characters and plot – the story of a character called Prudence and her search for a husband – from The Publick Wooing, a play included in the 1662 volume. This pair of plays provides an opportunity to trace Cavendish’s response to changing theatrical conditions, while also revealing the flexibility of her principles of dramatic composition. By reworking the character of Lady Prudence in The Public Wooing in her later play, Cavendish explores the possibilities and limitations of prudence as a virtue available to women. Further, her recycling of this plot from one play to another reveals the prudential thinking that underlies her own writing and publication practices. Plays Never Before Printed includes two dramatic fragments – “A Piece of a Play” and “Scenes” from The Presence – that highlight the potential for transformation inherent in Cavendish’s dramatic works.
Rather than understanding irony as the simple opposite of earnestness, sincerity, or genuineness, I want to suggest that it represents a mode of playful engagement with the hidden connective tissue that links the various commitments – serious or flippant, affirmative or destructive, quiescent or contentious – of a work, object, or discourse. Irony activates the latent trace of the one in the other, demonstrating how each of these serve ulterior motives beyond their stated purpose. Earnestness in turn can intensify its credibility and seriousness of purpose by confronting and working through the contradictions and tensions that ironic scrutiny exposes. A discourse or ideology is defined not only by what it values but also by what it attacks and rejects, by what it finds beautiful as well as by what it finds amusing, silly, or ridiculous. Irony activates, interrogates, and reorganizes the different possible combinations and permutations of commitments that organize any value system.
A summary of the book’s conclusions regarding Elliott Carter’s late music, on his fusing of technical and expressive concerns, the patterns of harmonic, rhythmic, and textural change in his music, and his engagement with modernist poetry and eighteenth- and nineteenth-century music, as well as the comic elements in his late compositions.
The aim of this article is to illustrate some key points that will hopefully encourage further reflection on the cinematic representations and meanings of populism in both an Italian and international context. Firstly, we attempt a definition of populism as applied to cinema, drawing on both political science and the literature on film history. Secondly, we turn to film critics and directors, discussing the views some of them hold on populism and film in relation to the Italian cinema of recent years. Thirdly, we discuss how the star system provides a useful point of convergence for our analysis of cinema and populism, looking in particular at postwar commedia all'italiana and the role of Totò in this context. Finally, we draw some conclusions and suggest what directions future research on the issue of populism and Italian cinema could take.
The brechtian tragic is inconceivable without the brechtian comic. Virtually no brecht play lacks a strong comic dimension, covering the whole range of the genre (parody, commedia, slapstick, clown etc.). Brechtian tragi-comedies call for special attention in this context, and this chapter contains detailed analyses of the resistible rise of arturo ui as well as the fragmentary, aristophanes-inspired pluto revue.
This is the first book for a century to explore the development of French opera with spoken dialogue from its beginnings. Musical comedy in this form came in different styles and formed a distinct genre of opera, whose history has been obscured by neglect. Its songs were performed in private homes, where operas themselves were also given. The subject-matter was far wider in scope than is normally thought, with news stories and political themes finding their way onto the popular stage. In this book, David Charlton describes the comedic and musical nature of eighteenth-century popular French opera, considering topics such as Gherardi's theatre, Fair Theatre and the 'musico-dramatic art' created in the mid-eighteenth century. Performance practices, singers, audience experiences and theatre staging are included, as well as a pioneering account of the formation of a core of 'canonical' popular works.
Comic prose has much in common with other genres and styles; timing and balance, for example, are integral to its effects. Jonathan Greenberg and David Galef offer an examination of many different techniques in comic writing that build upon and depart from familiar strategies, many of them relying on upending expectations. The chapter enumerates various techniques, including reversal, elaboration, soundplay, excess (and restraint) and parody.
W. B. Yeats began writing about the theatre in the mid-1890s, after a trip to Paris where he first saw French symbolist theatre. From the time that the Irish Literary Theatre (later the Abbey) began producing his plays in the early 1900s, Yeats was regularly, and vigorously writing about theatre, with key essays appearing in the little magazines Samhain and Beltaine. From about 1910 onwards, his writing about theatre becomes more meditative, more concerned with his occult interests, and for a period focused on his interest in Japanese Nō theatre. Collectively, Yeats’s fugitive writings for the theatre constitutes an organum for the theatre, which is consistent across more than forty years, and which stands among the most significant contributions to modernist reconceptualisations of theatre.
Throughout his life, W. B. Yeats used the terms ‘tragedy’ and ‘comedy’ in relation to the theatre. However, it is clear that his understanding of these terms did not derive from Aristotle. He also frequently mentions Nietzsche, and particularly Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy; however, he uses Nietzsche’s theory of tragedy in an unique and distinctive way. For Yeats, tragic theatre was what he referred to as 'subjective', a term he develops in his occult and philosophical works, particularly A Vision, and which he relates to vision, thought, and the individual. 'Comedy', by contrast, is what Yeats considers to be 'objective', concerned with the material world and its manifestations, including the body, and rationality. Based on this opposition, Yeats lays the foundations for a theory of theatre that is distinctive, and which shapes his own theatrical practice.
“Sheer Playfulness and Deadly Seriousness are my closest friends,” Philip Roth once said. This wry comment perfectly encapsulates the characteristic use of comedy and irony in his work; though his writing can be situated within a larger history of comic authors, his tragicomic style is immediately identifiable as his own, and has become part of his literary legacy. This chapter discusses Roth’s unique brand of humor, defining its iterations and tracing the different ways it is employed in some of his most notable works.
The panoramic reception of various literary genres in Aristophanic drama is discussed with reference to a specific play, Peace. Thematic and textual allusions to tragedy and earlier comedy are interwoven in connection to the central themes of this play: war and peace. The earlier part of the play, set in a world dominated by armed conflict, revolves around the parody of a quasi ‘trilogy’ of Euripidean tragedies (Aeolus, Stheneboea, and Bellerophontes) and contains further references to tragic passages or motifs of tragic dramaturgy. The latter part, which consists in the celebrations for the regained peace, parades a sequence of routines borrowed from rudimentary forms of comic entertainment, together with reminiscences of iambic poetry. The joys of peace are thus illustrated through a genealogy of the comic genre. The transition from the former to the latter world, through the pivotal scene of Peace’s liberation, is marked by a recast of the themes and stagecraft of satyr play. With its sequence of tragic trilogy, satyr play and assortment of comic materials, the Peace offers virtually the experience of a full festival of the Dionysia within the limits of a single dramatic script.
This article looks to Attic comedy to explain Socrates’ first argument in Plato's Hippias Major: his refutation of Hippias’ claim that the Beautiful is a beautiful girl. As part of his argument, Socrates introduces three examples of beautiful things—a mare (θήλεια ἵππος), a lyre (λύρα) and a pot (χύτρα)—all of which are used in comedy as metaphorical obscenities for sexualized women. The author contends that an erotic reading of the text accomplishes what no other interpretation can: (1) a unified account of the passage that (2) allows for Socrates’ successful refutation of (3) a proposal in keeping with Hippias’ character. In addition, it explains (4) Socrates’ choice of examples—in particular, the rarely cited χύτρα—and (5) Hippias’ otherwise inexplicable reaction to the χύτρα, as well as (6) the analogous relationship of monkeys and men to pots and girls.
Chapter 6 of The Cambridge Companion to Sappho ponders Sappho’s relationship with her other archaic poets and contemporary poetic traditions, including iambic poetry (Archilochus and Hipponax) and choral poetry (Alcman and Bacchylides).
This chapter discusses Atwood’s storytelling techniques within an international context of humorous literary production. Referencing Bakhtin and Linda Hutcheon, it explores Atwood’s extensive comic strategies, identifying and explaining them through the categories of the tall tale and the carnivalesque, multivocality, irony and satire, parody, travesty, and metatextuality. It provides detailed rhetorical analyses of examples of Atwood’s humor with quotations from her short stories and her recent novels The Blind Assassin, Oryx and Crake, The Heart Goes Last, Hag-Seed, and The Testaments, showing how Atwood the humorist, satirist, and moralist expertly reconciles the double function of literature: to amuse and to instruct.
In Chapter 2, I situate Johnnie To’s popular comedy, Justice, My Foot! (1992 審死官), which revolves around a lawyer defending a woman falsely accused of murdering her husband, in light of the drafting of the Basic Law and passage of the Bill of Rights in early-1990s Hong Kong. I argue that To’s film, which appeared at cinemas a mere three years after the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing, can be approached as a screening of a nightmare scenario on the minds of many viewers at the time: A Hong Kong-style lawyer trying to defend the innocent and maintain justice in a Chinese-style legal system that disregards basic human rights and that is plagued by corruption and nepotism. I will then explore the function of humor in the film to show how Justice, My Foot! repackages anxieties about the sinicization of law into a marketable cultural product for mass consumption.