This seminar will explore the genre of comedy. Its main objectives are (1) to read closely several famous ancient and modern comedies; (2) to grasp the esthetics of major writers such as Aristophanes, Shakespeare, Molière, and Beckett; (3) to develop an overall sense of the traditions and cultural contexts of comedy, how comedy has changed over time, and which features have remained constant. Specific topics include: the origins of comedy; the forms and features of “high” and “low” comedy; the conventions and techniques of romantic and satirical comedy; types and functions of laughter; tragicomedy, travesty, and farce. Reading List: Aristophanes, Four Plays by Aristophanes (read: The Frogs, The Birds, and Lysistrata), tr. Dudley Fitts (Harvest). Plautus, Four Comedies (read: The Braggart Soldier and The Brothers Menaechmus), tr. Erich Segal (Oxford World’s Classics). Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Measure for Measure (any edn). Molière, The Misanthrope and Tartuffe, tr. Richard Wilbur (Harvest). Wycherley, The Country Wife (Cambridge ppb). Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest (Dover Thrift). Beckett, Waiting for Godot (Grove). The editions above are recommended; you can use other editions so long as they contain the full text; many of the plays can be read online (at gutenberg.org and elsewhere). Several brief assignments on individual authors and a final.