Looking at Laughter

Looking at Laughter : Humor, Power, and Transgression in Roman Visual Culture, 100 B.C.-A.D. 250

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In this engaging study, a follow up to his earlier Looking at Lovemaking John R. Clarke asks what the Romans found funny, and why. As the title would suggest, he focuses on the evidence to be found in Roman art and material culture, including graffitti, although literary sources of course provide a framework for the study. He draws heavily on the theories of Mikhail Bakhtin, finding that much of Roman humour relies on the overturning of the existing social order, and breaking of taboos, be they social, religious or sexual.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 321 pages
  • 177.8 x 254 x 30.48mm | 1,065.94g
  • University of California Press
  • Berkerley, United States
  • English
  • 24 color illustrations, 97 b/w photographs, 17 line illustrations, 5 tables
  • 0520237331
  • 9780520237339
  • 1,034,862

Review quote

"Brave and sometimes brilliant... Clarke has a wonderful eye for the byways of Roman art and a passionate determination... Presents an extremely powerful case... A wonderful book." New York Review Of Books 20080717 "No one is doing more to enrich our pictures of Roman visual culture, or to encourage a more imaginative and open-minded approach to it... For this contribution alone, the author and his book are to be greatly recommended." -- Christopher H. Hallett Journal Of Interdisciplinary History 20090301 "Clearly written and carefully explicated, the book is suitable for students and nonspecialists ... art historians and classicists." -- Eve D'ambra The Historian 20100630 "Clarke has accomplished a pioneering study... The book is beautifully executed." Art Bulletin (CAA) 20110601show more

About John R. Clarke

John R. Clarke is Annie Laurie Howard Regents Professor of History of Art at the University of Texas, Austin. He is the author of Art in the Lives of Ordinary Romans (UC Press, 2003), Roman Sex (2003), Looking at Lovemaking: Constructions of Sexuality in Roman Art,100 B.C. A.D. 250 (UC Press, 1998), and The Houses of Roman Italy: 100 B.C. A.D. 250: Ritual, Space, and Decoration (UC Press, 1991).show more

Table of contents

Acknowledgments Introduction PART ONE VISUAL HUMOR 1. Words or Images? Degrees of Visuality in Roman Humor 2. Funny Faces Onstage and Off 3. Double Takes 4. Apotropaic Laughter PART TWO SOCIAL HUMOR 5. Power over the Other or the Other's Power? Laughing at the Pygmy and the Aethiops 6. Who's Laughing? Modern Scholars and Ancient Viewers in Class Conflict 7. Parody in Elite Visual Culture at Pompeii: Heroes, Gods, and Foundation Myths PART THREE SEXUAL HUMOR 8. Sexual Humor and the Gods 9. Laughing at Human Sexual Folly Conclusion Notes Bibliography List of Illustrations Indexshow more