English 100

Junior Seminar: Comedy, Carnival, and Folly

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
7 Spring 2006 Altman, Joel B.
Altman, Joel
TTh 11-12:30 106 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Erasmus: The Praise of Folly; Jonson, B.: Bartholomew Fair; Rabelais, F.: Gargantua and Pantagruel; Shakespeare, W.: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Twelfth Night; Course Reader


"""License"": what does it mean? It refers to permission, and the authority that grants it. It also refers to what one enjoys or indulges--one's liberty--and hence to behavior that might become licentious or libertine, thereby threatening the authority of those who grant license in the first place. Is license then a social fiction--devised to maintain an imagined but necessary distinction between order and disorder, moral and immoral, rational and irrational--that always threatens to collapse and must always be renewed? Renaissance writers and institutions often seemed more willing to entertain this insight than we are, in their festivals celebrating the inversions of power, their licensed fools, their notions of holy folly, their provision of ""liberties"" where the subversive potential of theater enjoyed relatively free play. This central, ambiguous, proliferating term will govern our study of the rich intersections of classical comedy, humanist learning, folk ritual, and native traditions of folly, madness, and the grotesque in Renaissance culture and their relation to social stability. Planned readings include Erasmus' The Praise of Folly, Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel, George Gascoigne's The Supposes, the anonymous commedia dell' arte play The Three Cuckolds, Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night's Dream, Robert Armin's Foole Upon Foole, Jonson's Bartholomew Fair, and a selection of critical and theoretical essays in a Course Reader. Students are expected to participate actively in discussion and to write three essays and a final exam. "

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