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Aristophanes and the Carnival of Genres

, 272 pages
November 2006



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Aristophanes and the Carnival of Genres

The comedies of Aristophanes are known not only for their boldly imaginative plots but for the ways in which they incorporate and orchestrate a wide variety of literary genres and speech styles. Unlike the writers of tragedy, who prefer a uniformly elevated tone, Aristophanes articulates his dramatic dialogue with striking literary and linguistic juxtapositions, producing a carnivalesque medley of genres that continually forces both audience and reader to readjust their perspectives. In this energetic and original study, Charles Platter interprets the complexities of Aristophanes' work through the lens of Mikhail Bakhtin's critical writing.

This book charts a new course for Aristophanic comedy, taking its lead from the work of Bakhtin. Bakhtin describes the way multiple voices—vocabularies, tones, and styles of language originating in different social classes and contexts—appear and interact within literary texts. He argues that the dynamic quality of literature arises from the dialogic relations that exist among these voices. Although Bakhtin applied his theory primarily to the epic and the novel, Platter finds in his work profound implications for Aristophanic comedy, where stylistic heterogeneity is the genre's lifeblood.

Charles Platter is a professor of classics at the University of Georgia.

"Platter's book is a meticulously researched and philologically sound study of specific plays, performed by a skilled classicist... it engages with the nuances of Bakhtinian theory in a lucidly sophisticated manner."

"A focused, coherent, and convincing study of the dialogic interaction among various sources from which Aristophanes composed his comedies."

"Taking its lead from the work of Bakhtin, Platter's challenging and thought-provoking book represents a full-blooded attempt to look at Aristophanic comedy through a 'carnival' lens."

" Carnival of Genres is important because it validates the ambiguity in Aristophanes, but also because it reveals the problem with valuing ambiguity for its own sake."

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