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*Term 1 2019-20 deadline: 12 noon on 2nd December 2019

Term 1 essay questions: choose one from the following (max word length: 2500 words)

  1. To what extent are modern theories of humour useful for interpreting the humour of ancient texts? Discuss in relation to two or more texts studied this term.
  2. ‘Humour is the rehearsal and reestablishment of concepts’ (Miller). Discuss in relation to two or more texts studied this term.
  3. How much of Roman humour is lost in translation? Discuss in relation to two or more texts studied this term.
  4. The figure of the eunuch is the ‘controlling metaphor’ (Dessen) of Terence’s Eunuchus. Discuss this idea, paying particular attention to its comic effects.
  5. Discuss the role of contaminatio in producing humour in Terence’s Eunuchus.
  6. Is Terence’s Eunuch a good testcase for the superiority theory of humour?
  7. Analyse the relationship between wit and power in Roman oratory, focusing on your set passages from Cicero and Quintilian.
  8. Does Cicero de Oratore 2 help us to understand the jokes in Terence’s Eunuchus?
  9. To what extent, and to what effect, is laughter gendered in Ovid’s Ars Amatoria?


See Assessment tab for guidelines, and Bibliography tab for suggested reading. It is up to you to select appropriate primary texts and scholarship, but if you need guidance please ask the module tutor. As a general rule, in researching your essay topic, you should be reading (at least sections of) 3-4 books and consulting 4-5 articles or chapters. Feel free to stray beyond the recommended reading, but make sure you do not neglect the reading lists provided, be wary of older scholarship, do not rely on internet resources (avoid random dissertations you might find online, for instance!!), and make sure you are not only reading introductions to or surveys of the topic or text. Also please ask for guidance if you are unsure about your approach to an essay question,or have questions about study or presentation skills (e.g. using the library, electronic resources, note taking, writing footnotes, compiling bibliographies).

Term 2 2019-20 essay questions (1800-2000 words): choose one from the following

These questions will be announced by the end of term 1

Deadline = 9th March 2020

Suggested blog post topics (800-1000 words).

Note you may if you wish choose your own topic, but must discuss this with the lecturer. You should develop your own title for your blog, even if you take up one of the topics or ideas listed below. We will devote an hour of week 5’s lecture session to this.

The Roman Smile
Roman stand-up
The laughing philosopher
A book review (e.g. of Mary Beard’s Laughter in Ancient Rome, or Antony Corbeill’s Controlling Laughter)
The vocabulary of Roman humour: a dead language?
Topsy-turvy Saturnalian wit
The Roman joke book
Giggling and guffawing: the performance of gender in Roman humour
Grotesque bodies in Roman Laughter
Lapping it up: the philosophy and comedy of food
Performing Roman humour
The Stoic poker face
Laughing with/at Roman emperors
Monkey business: Roman laughter and the animal
Daring to laugh in Rome
Laughter and looking in Latin literature
The Freudian slip, in Latin
Roman punchlines
Crossing boundaries in Roman laughter