Corpus Christi College Oxford

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Aristophanes and the Current Political Moment

‘It is no doubt significant that Aristophanes has become again for us so important a window onto the imaginative life of the classical city, and his bawdiness enjoyed as much as his sophisticated wit and political satire. In an age that has made Donald Trump a viable candidate for high office, Aristophanes may indeed be the best lens through which to look at society.’

Simon Goldhill ‘Good Dirty Fun’ TLS (31/08/2016).


 Lysistrata and magistrate Boris, (Cambridge Greek Play 2016: Lysistrata)




We are living through darkly comic times, but what can the work of Aristophanes offer us, and what in return can we offer the study of his work from the questions that are been raised by the people, processes and politics of the current moment?

There have been responses on the stage and on film. The Cambridge Greek Play production of Lysistrata featured Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, and a chorus of Nigel Farage masks. Spike Lee has recognised the potential in Aristophanes’ responses to conflict, taking Lysistrata in a less comic direction, towards the gun violence of Chicago in Chi-Raq. The Camden fringe recently saw a Dikaiopolis, dissatisfied with the EU referendum result, making a personal deal to retain his European citizenship in Leave. To Remain. In the academy, there have been conferences at Columbia University and at King’s College London, considering, respectively, Aristophanes’ importance for understanding ancient politics, and where the comedy lies in Aristophanes work, for ancient and modern audiences.

These approaches are complementary to our own. We are interested in exploring the issues surrounding living in a world where “political comedy” brings up questions of the demarcation and mutual implication of the spheres of politics, representation, media, the comic, and whether now is a particularly good time to read and reread Aristophanes. We want to explore, through a variety of approaches, how Aristophanes and how scholarship on Aristophanes might respond to the moment we are in, when the relationship between comedy, criticism and power is urgent and when the appeal of the grotesque makes is not only an ally of subversion, but of domination as well.

The international group of scholars gathered for the 8 weeks of seminars will attempt to respond to some of the possible discourse. The programme runs thus:

Wednesdays in Rainolds Room, Corpus Christi College:  5pm-6.30pm

  (*Week 7 in Seminar Room, CCC)

17th January (Week 1) – No seminar

24th January  (Week 2) - Liz Irwin (Columbia)-  Acharnians and politics

31st January  (Week 3) - Ian Ruffell (Glasgow)– Aristophanes and Populism 

7th  February  (Week 4) – Amy Coker (ICS) - Political Incorrectness? Aristophanes, Hate Speech & Power

14th February (Week 5)  –  Carol Atack (Oxford) – Gendered politics of performative assembly in Aristophanes

21st February (Week 6) - Rob Tordoff (York, Toronto)- The Cavalry and vulgarism

28th February (Week 7*)– Mario Telo (Berkeley) – Aristophanes, Jacques Rancière and Democracy

7th  March -  (Week 8)   Constanze Güthenke (CCC) – Reading Leo Strauss reading Aristophanes

 The Seminar will be followed each week with a drinks reception.

All Welcome!


For further details, contact:

Prof. Constanze Guthenke (

Dr. Samuel Gartland (

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