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Humor and History

Sandra Joshel

University of Washington

This presentation focuses on two aspects of Richlin’s work as it has shaped the historiography of Roman women. First, focusing on three chapters in Arguments with Silence – the first (adultery in Rome), the second (satirical invective against Roman women), and the eighth (Pliny the Elder and folk remedies) – she examines how Richlin’s reading of the literary sources has affected historians who must use these sources to write the history of ancient women, separating discourse from social realities. Moreover, Richlin lays the basis for understanding how this approach to the study of women can serve other discourses—including those involving empire, social order, and disorder. Second, this panelist reads Richlin’s exploration of humor from Plautus to Juvenal as providing a unique insight into the workings of power in Roman culture, and she elaborates the ways in which Richlin’s scholarly and theoretical approach to humor has enabled more sophisticated understandings of the experience of power in Roman society – the hegemony of the upper-class elite and the ways in which the lower-classes were able to speak to power.

Session/Panel Title

Feminist Scholarship in the Classics: Amy Richlin's Arguments with Silence: Writing the History of Roman Women (2014), (Workshop)

Session/Paper Number

29.4

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