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Aristophanes and the Carnival of Genres

Charles Platter

Publication Year: 2007

The comedies of Aristophanes are known not only for their boldly imaginative plots but for the ways in which they incorporate and orchestrate a wide variety of literary genres and speech styles. Unlike the writers of tragedy, who prefer a uniformly elevated tone, Aristophanes articulates his dramatic dialogue with striking literary and linguistic juxtapositions, producing a carnivalesque medley of genres that continually forces both audience and reader to readjust their perspectives. In this energetic and original study, Charles Platter interprets the complexities of Aristophanes' work through the lens of Mikhail Bakhtin's critical writing. This book charts a new course for Aristophanic comedy, taking its lead from the work of Bakhtin. Bakhtin describes the way multiple voices—vocabularies, tones, and styles of language originating in different social classes and contexts—appear and interact within literary texts. He argues that the dynamic quality of literature arises from the dialogic relations that exist among these voices. Although Bakhtin applied his theory primarily to the epic and the novel, Platter finds in his work profound implications for Aristophanic comedy, where stylistic heterogeneity is the genre's lifeblood.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

A lot of things have to go right for a book to appear. This one is no exception, and many thanks are due. Grants from the University of Georgia Research Foundation allowed me to begin writing. The Franklin College of Arts and Sciences at The University of Georgia generously offered me research leave in 1999 – 2000 that was spent at the ...

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Introduction: Bakhtin, Aristophanes, and the Carnival of Genres

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pp. 1-41

It has long been recognized that the work of Mikhail Bakhtin offers useful insights for the study of Aristophanes.1 Bakhtin refers directly to Aristophanes infrequently, but his study of Rabelais popularized the idea of “carnival consciousness,” a mode of thought...

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1 Dikaiopolis on Modern Art

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pp. 42-62

Interpretations of Acharnians often focus on the play’s political dimension. There is nothing surprising here. Indeed, the 425 production date—during the war with Sparta—together with the broad outline of the plot—an unpatriotic separate peace with Sparta—make a political...

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2 The Failed Programs of Clouds

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pp. 63-83

The literary dialogism of Dikaiopolis’ prologue in Acharnians offers a variety of interpretative possibilities to Aristophanes’ various audiences. In Clouds, we find the same processes at work. Yet while other literature, particularly tragic poetry, continues to exercise a powerful...

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3 Clouds on Clouds and the Aspirations of Wasps

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pp. 84-107

Perhaps more than any other Aristophanic work, Wasps is organized by a series of oppositions. 1 Yet for all the play’s attempts to situate itself among Aristophanes’ other plays (and Old Comedy in general) and to illuminate the character of Philocleon, his allies, and...

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4 Questioning Authority: Homer and Oracular Speech

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pp. 108-142

The two quotations above describe well the interaction of Aristophanic comedy with the genres that regularly appear within it. Like the novel, which, as Bakhtin comments elsewhere, relativizes the genres with which it comes in contact and “exposes the conventionality of their...

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5 The Return of Telephus: Acharnians, Thesmophoriazusae, and the Dialogic Background

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pp. 143-175

Bakhtin characterizes the “epic” mentality, which tragedy embodies, as favoring the construction of literary works that represent themselves as fully independent cultural products neither requiring supplementation to bolster their authority nor needing to explain...

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Conclusion: The Centrifugal Style

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pp. 176-182

Susarion didn’t think it would end like this. After the putative inventor of Old Comedy had been abandoned by his wife, he made his way to Athens, entered what passed for a theater, and declaimed a few lines in iambic trimeter. Maybe all he wanted was to get something off...


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pp. 183-237


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pp. 239-249


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pp. 251-257

E-ISBN-13: 9780801893339
E-ISBN-10: 080189333X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801885273
Print-ISBN-10: 0801885272

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2007