Laughter in Ancient Rome: On Joking, Tickling, and Cracking Up

Laughter in Ancient Rome On Joking Tickling and Cracking Up What made the Romans laugh Was ancient Rome a carnival filled with practical jokes and hearty chuckles Or was it a carefully regulated culture in which the uncontrollable excess of laughter was a for

  • Title: Laughter in Ancient Rome: On Joking, Tickling, and Cracking Up
  • Author: Mary Beard
  • ISBN: 9780520277168
  • Page: 225
  • Format: Hardcover
  • What made the Romans laugh Was ancient Rome a carnival, filled with practical jokes and hearty chuckles Or was it a carefully regulated culture in which the uncontrollable excess of laughter was a force to fear a world of wit, irony, and knowing smiles How did Romans make sense of laughter What role did it play in the world of the law courts, the imperial palace, or thWhat made the Romans laugh Was ancient Rome a carnival, filled with practical jokes and hearty chuckles Or was it a carefully regulated culture in which the uncontrollable excess of laughter was a force to fear a world of wit, irony, and knowing smiles How did Romans make sense of laughter What role did it play in the world of the law courts, the imperial palace, or the spectacles of the arena Laughter in Ancient Rome explores one of the most intriguing, but also trickiest, of historical subjects Drawing on a wide range of Roman writing from essays on rhetoric to a surviving Roman joke book Mary Beard tracks down the giggles, smirks, and guffaws of the ancient Romans themselves From ancient monkey business to the role of a chuckle in a culture of tyranny, she explores Roman humor from the hilarious, to the momentous, to the surprising But she also reflects on even bigger historical questions What kind of history of laughter can we possibly tell Can we ever really get the Romans jokes

    One thought on “Laughter in Ancient Rome: On Joking, Tickling, and Cracking Up”

    1. I thought I'd give Beard another shot after Confronting the Classics left me so cold (and sick to my stomach, after reading her commentary on the eroticism of pedagogy). My mistake. Beard manages the signal accomplishment of making a book on laughter boring and impenetrable. Again, she focuses on theory and academic debates, instead of getting to the heart of what readers care about (and what the book falsely promises) an examination of what made the Romans laugh, and what laughter meant to them [...]

    2. Holy crap. Mary Beard has a true gift for making things people thought they knew practically unrecognizable. This time the study is Roman laughter: but even more broadly speaking, the idea of laughter as a field of historical inquiry (whether to study the practice of laughter itself or simply the theories, again she doesn't exactly know). There are about a million questions raised in this book, some of them are incredibly introspective and made my head spin when considering. For example: "Is lau [...]

    3. I'd previously heard Mary Beard interviewed on radio and had therefore picked up and read her book on Roman triumphs. This new title came as a gift from a Canadian bookseller friend.If you're expecting to join in the hilarity of the ancients, I doubt that this book will do the trick. Only four of the jokes quoted within elicited anything approaching a chuckle from me. This, of course, raises the issue of the appropriation of meaning between distant cultures, a matter Beard treats at some length, [...]

    4. This is a largely academic but entertaining account of laughter in Rome. It's very engaged with the secondary literature, often in a disputatious manner. Beard is also clearly in possession of a magisterial knowledge of primary source materials, and she hops around in time to marshal evidence to her points. She includes a decent survey and treatment on theories of laughter, but she remains agnostic about universalist accounts. The reason this book is extremely my s#!t is that Beard traces in a c [...]

    5. I found this to be an entertaining read with a great deal of historical detail. The Romans, in a sense (p. 209), "invented" the "joke."This is just great! p. 8 "more than four hundred years earlier," seems to refer to from 161 BCE to 192 CE (p. 1) which I would think is 353 years, which, again, I would think is LESS than 400 years. Professor Beard was incredibly gracious and thanked me for my correction. My daughter disagrees, but I am now claiming that I have made a contribution to classical li [...]

    6. I just finished Beard's fascinating book. Full disclosure, I am writing a book on laughter and humor (l&h). This is an extant from a larger essay in which I take issue with Beard's view that a universal theory of l&h is possible:Is laughter and humor a feature of human nature? It is, but there is little collaboration among scholars who maintain different perspectives on what about laughter makes us human. Philosophers since Plato have asked: Why do we laugh? What is humor? What are laugh [...]

    7. I enjoyed this book. It's really an academic assessment of humour as a way of better understanding certain aspects of Roman society. I suppose we can only guess at what role humour really played (as sources are limited) but it's interesting to see all the theories. Where they were listed, I was quite amazed to see that there's the odd joke that remains funny after all this time. I wonder in the future what they'll think of humour from our era?

    8. This is one of my favorite kinds of history books – the kind where the historian writing the book is ready to get in the ring and box it out with other historians over difference of opinions on historical theories. Fight for the knife!I don’t think anyone can beat the Tudor historians for taking things to a personal level (although the Richard III historians debating did-he-or-didn’t-he come close) but here we get the great twist of Mary Beard trying to be above it all, merely reporting ho [...]

    9. Theories of laughter (superiority, incongruity, psychic release) and its paradoxes (can include and exclude people, can be controlled and politicised or uncontrollable, means of socially policing those who do not conform but also of resisting and challenging boundaries - very meaningful, but essentially nonsensical?!)universal, but: uncontrollable laughter depends on individual's assumptions and experiences, controlled/socially encouraged laughter depends on the shared cultural values of a socie [...]

    10. It reads like a collection of lectures, which is how it started life. It can be repetitive and disjointed, but in the end the topic is so interesting (how do we reconstruct the sound of ancient laughter?) that Beard carries it off very well. As most of her work seems to do, this speaks to tropes in the modern world almost as much as the ancient. Not an easy read by any means, despite occasionally sounding off-handed and snarky (which mostly comes across as a forced departure from the tone of 75% [...]

    11. Despite the impressions that the cover and the subject matter may give, this book is a dense scholarly examination of laughter in the Roman world. Mary Beard, as with her other works, does an excellent job and researching and presenting the material. This book is divided into two parts. The first part deals with methodological issues of studying laughter as well as some general thoughts on the laughter for the ancient Greeks and Romans. Beard also presents the three main types of anthropological [...]

    12. This was really interesting, very engagingly written for what's basically an academic investigation, and shed a lot of light on ancient Roman society from its unusual perspective.The book discusses the difficulties in trying to engage in any history of laughter - if the differences between what make (for example) the French and the British laugh can be so large, what hope have we of understanding a vanished ancient civilisation? Despite the challenge, this book provides a thorough and enjoyable [...]

    13. Un ottimo saggio di storia, scritto con leggerezza - ma non troppa - risultato di studi e di preparazione di lezioni universitarie della professoressa che all'estero è una delle migliori storiche romane riconosciute dopo i nostri impareggiabili Alberto Angela e padre.Ben scritto, fluido, poche volte noioso, affronta il tema del riso e della risata così come veniva vista e studiata ai tempi dei romani.Ottimo per studiare qualcosa di Roma antica che non sia legato per forza di cose alla sua trad [...]

    14. I believe that I would have liked this book more if I was interested in Sociology. For me, there were parts that were very interesting, and some that weren't. I don't think that it takes away from the quality, as there's a lot of information regarding laughter from that time/area. I would recommend this book to someone who likes both history and sociology.

    15. I think this is more aimed at academics than some of Beard's other books. I enjoyed much of it but I think my own expectations let me down; a better understanding of the authors and texts is perhaps needed for a full appreciation of the arguments and nuances.

    16. Mary Beard has almost made a career out of removing certainty from virtually anything that we think we know about the ancient world. With careful analysis and close reading of sources she has revealed that we don't really know much about the famous Roman "triumph", we don't really know how people responded to religion, we see wall paintings of men playing dice, and on the one hand we know exactly what they're doing, but on the other we don't have the faintest idea. (What is gambling in a world w [...]

    17. 4.5 Stars. This scholarly investigation into humor in Ancient Rome delves into what the ancients thought caused laughter, what made something funny, and the use of "comedy" by the various classes of the Roman people. She rightly points out that our sources are very limited, and that they are almost exclusively from the male, Roman elite. Even so, Beard is able to draw reasonable conclusions about laughter in Ancient Rome, how it was expressed, and how it was used to maintain (or contest) social [...]

    18. Description: What made the Romans laugh? Was ancient Rome a carnival, filled with practical jokes and hearty chuckles? Or was it a carefully regulated culture in which the uncontrollable excess of laughter was a force to fear—a world of wit, irony, and knowing smiles? How did Romans make sense of laughter? What role did it play in the world of the law courts, the imperial palace, or the spectacles of the arena?Laughter in Ancient Rome explores one of the most intriguing, but also trickiest, of [...]

    19. Read whilst e-queueing for SPQR bit meh as far as Mary Beards go. A loosely gathered, somewhat repetitive essay collection rather than a meatier long piece, which didn't remotely earn its fascinating final throwaway thesis about 'the shift from the [Greek] practice of joking to the [Roman] commodified joke' or even its more modest arguments about the relationship between power and laughter (especially that of women). Surprisingly heavy on the etymology and meta-interpretation and historiography [...]

    20. Like so many of its cousins in the Sather Lectures series, this book is thought-provoking and (at least by the standards of classical academic scholarship) readable. Beard, with her characteristic humor, takes her audience on a tour of what was funny in ancient Rome: practical jokes, types of comic performance, and collections of witticisms, among other things. She engages with a diverse range of source material while coming to a (tentative) conclusion about the cultural impact of Rome on our un [...]

    21. A book about laughter in ancient Greece and Rome by Classicist Mary Beard, who also knows how to write with humor. She contends, as everyone should, that it's impossible to know what made citizens of Greece and Rome laugh. How could we know? Many have made educated guesses. Some of the better known writers from Rome themselves analyzed the subject of laughter: what caused it, physically and emotionally, and what was truly funny I would say we are probably telling these same jokes today. Perpetua [...]

    22. I started this book really looking forward to reading a longer work by Mary Beard. I enjoy her newspaper columns and have heard her on various recordings, where she is lucid and insightful. This book was a bit of a disappointment. It's not meant as a work of hard scholarship, but there was more hedging about the facts than I was expecting -- in many ways it was more a treatise on how we don't know, and can't know, deep facts about Roman culture. I would have prefered it if she had stripped some [...]

    23. As others have mentioned, this isn't at all a collection of Roman jokes. Rather, it's an essay on how difficult it is to understand the humor of other cultures, in this case the culture of ancient Rome. We have collections of jokes and witticisms from that time, but most of them don't seem all that funny to us. Why is that? This book points at the problems of understanding more than it nails down any sort of theory as to why it is, which is understandable, but it keeps it from being a total knoc [...]

    24. A good read, not too dry and not as unfunny as books about humor usually tend to be. Makes a good argument for the Roman origin of our tradition of joking and I learned a few ancient zingers. Most important thing I learned: if you want to talk about butt and fart and dick jokes in an academic fashion, refer to them as "jokes pertaining to the lower body stratum". Now that alone was worth the price of admission!

    25. As someone whose interests include both Romans and humour, I was fascinated by this investigation into what was seen as funny in the classical world. The book was pitched at just the right level for me (Classics BA who picked Greek New Comedy and Roman Comedy as one of my specialist subjects); there were things I knew, which made me feel clever, and things I didn't know, which broadened my horizons. The chapter on animals was particularly relevant to my interests.

    26. A magisterial work on Roman laughter (with necessary reference to Greek laughter, of course) - an excellent, scholarly tome, though it made for rather dry reading (I realize that it was a scholarly work on humor, not a humorous work, but even so, it was even drier than expected - perhaps the author was overcompensating?). Anyway, good book, and recommended to those studying ancient humor . . .

    27. I personally didn't find the book as good as the summary. Perhaps i just had high hopes or didn't really get what the summary was leading towards. Having watched several of her documentaries I was prepared for it to be really entertaining and informative. To be fair it was somewhat informative but not so much enjoyablec from NetGalley

    28. I have a solid tolerance for dry/wordy academic books. I have a reasonable tolerance for the uncertainty inherent in ancient history. I do not have a lot of tolerance for a book that spends half its time criticizing other people for making unsupported assumptions about the meaning of Roman jokes and then repeatedly does exactly that.

    29. Beard, with ample scholarly endnotes, documents the ways in which Romans found things laughable--as exercises of power, slapstick, joke books, stage directions, trained monkeys, puns in legal arguments, practical jokes, the rhetorical structure of humor and of course, fart jokes.

    30. Interesting but meandering and at times repetitive. Generally engaging narrative without being pedantic or condescending.

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