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April 27, 2016
9781421419343
English
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9781421419350
9781421419343
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$49.95 USD, £37.00 GBP
v2.1 Reference

Comic Democracies

From Ancient Athens to the American Republic

For two thousand years, democratic authors treated comedy as a toolkit of rhetorical practices for encouraging problem-solving, pluralism, risk-taking, and other civic behaviors that increased minority participation in government. Over the past two centuries, this pragmatic approach to extending the franchise has gradually been displaced by more idealistic democratic philosophies that focus instead on promoting liberal principles and human rights. But in the wake of the recent "democracy recession" in the Middle East, the Third World, and the West itself, there has been renewed interest in finding practical sources of popular rule. Comic Democracies joins in the search by exploring the value of the old comic tools for growing democracy today.

Drawing on new empirical research from the political and cognitive sciences, Angus Fletcher deftly analyzes the narrative elements of two dozen stage plays, novels, romances, histories, and operas written by such authors as Aristophanes, Menander, Plautus, Ariosto, Machiavelli, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, William Congreve, John Gay, Henry Fielding, and Washington Irving. He unearths five comic techniques that were used to foster democratic behaviors in antiquity and the Renaissance, then traces the role of these techniques in Tom Paine’s Common Sense, Thomas Jefferson’s preamble to the Declaration of Independence, George Washington’s farewell address, Mercy Otis Warren’s federalist history of the Revolution, Frederick Douglass’s abolitionist orations, and other key documents that played a pivotal role in the development of the early American Republic.

After recovering these lost chapters of our democratic past, Comic Democracies concludes with a draft for the future, using the old methods of comedy to envision a modern democracy rooted in the diversity, ingenuity, and power of popular art.

About the Author

Angus Fletcher is a professor of English and a core member of Project Narrative at The Ohio State University. He is the author of Evolving Hamlet: Seventeenth-Century English Tragedy and the Ethics of Natural Selection.

Endorsements

"An admirably ambitious and meaningfully interdisciplinary book. The breadth of knowledge on display here is impressive."

- John Zumbrunnen, University of Wisconsin at Madison, author of Aristophanic Comedy and the Challenge of Democratic Citizenship

Reviews

"Fletcher’s main theory is convincing and will open up new fields of inquiry. This accessible work is for those interested in political science, cultural history, and comic theory as well as classical literature."

- Choice

"Fletcher is to be commended for his ability to bring together such a diverse range of texts and ideas. Although readers are unlikely to agree with all of his conclusions, Fletcher sets forth a suggestive and provocative argument that will be useful to those interested in the political dimensions of the comic form."

- The Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"Comic Democracies invites its readers to note the leaders and people who are willing and able to laugh, with and at themselves, and take them as seriously—more seriously, even—than those filled with grandiosity and self-serving conviction. Our political life may depend upon it."

- The Review of Politics

"... Comic Democracies offers a lively argument, admirable for its balance of breadth and sharpness, and is capped with Fletcher’s commitment to finding a public, contemporary meaning for literature. Even while looking back he keeps a clear eye on the present."

- Journal of American History

"The breadth and depth of research is impressive, as is the fluent argument and elegant expression. If anything this book is a timely intervention at a moment when ‘democracy’ seems to be sorely misguided and misrepresented in many Western nations. It is a call to intelligent response, pragmatic intervention, and humane governance, which recognizes the value of a diverse citizenry... Let us hope that some of our current and prospective leaders are reading this."

- English

"A unique and engaging study that draws from the classics... Comic Democracies is a well-written and accessible interdisciplinary study of the ways in which ancient comedy provides useful tools to advance modern democracies globally."

- Gretchen Martin - Studies in American Humor

9781421419343 : comic-democracies-fletcher
Hardback
224 Pages
$49.95 USD
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