Seminar: Renaissance Humour

Enseignant(s): Ghose Indira
Cursus: Master
Type d'enseignement: Séminaire
Langue(s) du cours: Anglais
Semestre(s): SP-2020

What did people in the early modern age find funny? This seminar will explore strands of humour in the Renaissance, beginning with jestbooks and ending with a comedy by Shakespeare which is particularly rich in a diversity of humour, Much Ado About Nothing. Aspects we will be looking at include contemporary theories about humour, laughter and language (wit, paradox), humour and gender (the 'merry war' between the sexes), satire, and an array of clowns and fools. The main texts we will be discussing are Erasmus' Praise of Folly and Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. Excerpts from Castiglione's Book of the Courtier, Book 2, devoted to jokes, and a handful of (atrocious) jokes from jestbooks will be made available on Moodle.

Credit requirements are regular attendance, active participation, class presentations, and an end of term paper of 4000 words. More than two unexcused absences disqualify students from gaining credit.


On successful completion of the course, students will have acquired in-depth knowledge of two Renaissance classics. They will have engaged in close analysis of the texts in class. They will have learned to evaluate texts critically in the form of research papers and to use both textual evidence and secondary sources to develop scholarly arguments.


Students are expected to acquire a copy of the following texts:

Erasmus, Praise of Folly, trans. Betty Radice, Penguin Classics (London: Penguin, 1993)

William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing, in The Norton Shakespeare: Comedies, ed. Stephen Greenblatt et al., 3rd ed. (New York: W. W. Norton, 2016)

Alternatively, the Arden Shakespeare, the Oxford Shakespeare, the New Cambridge Shakespeare or the RSC Shakespeare editions of the play are acceptable.

All texts are available at Librophoros.