Ancient Roman Visual Humor in its Social and Archaeological Contexts
Speaker: John R. Clarke, University of Texas at Austin
November 7, 2013, 6pm
ASU Tempe Campus
Murdock Hall 101
The ancient Romans, much like us moderns, valued humor, whether as a social safety valve, an oratorical tool, or just for the fun of it. Yet because humor is so rooted in its specific culture, most Roman comic visual representations remain opaque to the modern viewer. This lecture examines a broad range of objects, from wall paintings to ceramics, emphasizing the context of the built environment and the social status of viewers. Archaeological sites, as well as a range of ancient texts, inscriptions, and graffiti, provide the background for understanding the how and why of humorous imagery.
John R. Clarke earned his doctorate in ancient art history at Yale University in 1973. He has taught at the University of Texas at Austin since 1980, where he holds the title of Annie Laurie Howard Regents Professor in the Department of Art and Art History. His teaching, research, and publications focus on ancient Roman art and archaeology, art-historical methodology, and contemporary art. Clarke has seven books and over 100 essays, articles, and reviews to his credit, His early work investigated the architectural and social contexts surrounding the production and perception of Roman mosaics and wall painting, with an emphasis on Roman Italy. During the past fifteen years he has focused on how visual representations can shed light on ancient Roman attitudes toward the practices of everyday life. His 1998 book, Looking at Lovemaking, rethinks erotic art in Roman terms. Art in the Lives of Ordinary Romans (2004) examines non-elite art in its lived context. In 2007 he published a scholarly book, entitled Looking at Laughter, on visual humor. In the same year Roman Life appeared, a richly-illustrated book for laypersons accompanied by an interactive CD-ROM. Since 2006 he has directed the Oplontis Project, a multidisciplinary study aimed at the publication of two ancient Roman villas buried by Vesuvius (www.oplontisproject.org). Volume one, Oplontis Villa A (“of Poppaea”) at Torre Annunziata, Italy: The Ancient Setting and Modern Rediscovery, is slated to appear this year as an open-access, born-digital e-book in the Humanities E-Book series of the American Council of Learned Societies.
Sponsored by Project Humanities and the ASU School of International Letters and Cultures
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