photo of Ralph Rosen

Greek Comedy, Aesthetics, and the Question of 'Popular Culture'

Ralph Rosen, Vartan Gregorian Professor of the Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania

2015 Martin Ostwald Lecture. Tuesday, October 20, 4:30 p.m. Science Center 199

This lecture will focus on the comic drama of Classical Athens, a genre often described as 'popular', and argue that the basic aesthetic and socio-cultural dynamics underlying our own theorizing of the 'popular’ were also operative in strikingly similar ways in Classical antiquity. The scale of dissemination may have been different for ancient Greek poets, but the fundamental distinction between producing art for 'mass' and ‘elite' audiences was very much current then as it is today. In the case of Old Comedy, we will find that a high-brow/low-brow antithesis framed many of the aesthetic positions assumed by authors, critics and philosophers.

What is Classics?

The field of Classics is devoted to the study of the cultures of the ancient Greeks and Romans.  The curriculum includes training in the Greek and Latin languages at the Elementary, Intermediate, and Seminar levels.  In addition, the department offers a range of courses on the history, literature, philosophy, religion, and cultural life of antiquity, including classes that explore the reception of the Classical past in later periods up to the present day.  The rigorous training in Greek and Latin that is the hallmark of Swarthmore's Classics program has meant that the department enjoys remarkable success in producing students who go on to become leaders in the field.  But because it is a truly interdisciplinary field, Classics also appeals to students with a wide variety of interests and career goals.