Aristophanic Comedy and the Challenge of Democratic Citizenship

Aristophanic Comedy and the Challenge of Democratic Citizenship

John Zumbrunnen

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Locates in Aristophanes' comedies a complex comic disposition appropriate to the fundamental challenge of ordinary citizenship in a democracy.
Aristophanic Comedy and the Challenge of Democratic Citizenship finds in Aristophanes' comedies a complex comic disposition necessary for meeting the fundamental challenge of ordinary citizenship. That challenge, Zumbrunnen argues, emerges from the tension between two democratic impulses: a rebelliousness that resists all attempts to impose any form of institutionalized rule; and an inclination toward collective action taken through institutions of popular rule. Democracy demands that ordinary citizens negotiate the tension between these often conflicting impulses. Aristophanes' comedies rest upon and seek to instill in spectators a complex comic disposition that holds a simple celebration of rebellion in tension with an appreciation for the organized collective action necessary to bring about real change.

John Zumbrunnen is professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the author of Silence and Democracy: Athenian Politics in Thucydides' History as well as numerous articles and essays.

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Table of Contents

Peaceful Voyages: Peace and Lysistrata
Ordinary Citizens, High Culture, and the Salvation of theCity: Clouds, Women at the Thesmophoria, and Frogs
Arche and the Anger of the Ordinary Citizen: Wasps and Birds
Elite Domination and the Clever Citizen: Acharnians and Knights
Fantasy, Irony, and Economic Justice: Assemblywomen and Wealth
Conclusion: Democratic Possibilities


A stimulating and seminal analysis, which deserves to spur further discussion and debate in kind. POLIS

Very interesting...the book, primarily aimed at political theorists, will also prove interesting to classicists and general readers. CHOICE

Zumbrunnen's scholarship is, on the whole, excellent and comprehensive. His readings of Aristophanes are as sound as any that I have seen and he makes thorough recourse to a wide range of secondary sources... [it] should prove extremely useful to any student or academic interested in Aristophanes' and the Classics as well, more broadly, to those in International Relations and Political History. QUARTERLY REVIEW

Zumbrunnen offers original readings of Aristophanic comedy, demonstrating its continued relevance today. His sophisticated and careful analysis encourages readers to appreciate the tension-laden possibilities of democratic life--in both ancient Athens and in our own world. Ultimately, his discussion of the `comic disposition of the spectator-citizen' casts democratic citizenship in a new light, helping to move political theory forward in provocative ways. --Elizabeth Markovits, Mount Holyoke College, author of The Politics of Sincerity: Plato, Frank Speech, and Democratic Judgment