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Athenian Old Comedy is one of the timelessly funniest and widest-ranging forms of comedy every produced. In this course we will read, perform (selections), and examine four plays by Aristophanes, the greatest of ancient comic playwrights: Frogs, Clouds, Birds, and Wasps, each named for the characters assumed by its masked chorus. Aristophanes' irreverent portrait of the philosopher Socrates in Clouds will be weighed against Plato's more flattering, and ultimately more influential version in the Apology, which we will also read. Slides will be shown to recreate the stunning visual environment of Periclean Athens which literally and figuratively formed the backdrop to the original performances of the plays. This broadly based course will encompass a little military and political history, a little art history, a little social history, a little literary criticism, and a lot of fun.

3 credits

Course Code: HUM 208

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.