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Assembly Series

A tradition of convening thought leaders since 1953

McKelvey School of Engineering

Comedy Three Ways

Thursday, October 21 | 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM

Busch Hall, 100
Brookings Hall, St. Louis, MO 63105, USA

Abstract: Comedy raised a deep question for renaissance literary theory. Working with an idiom derived from Aristotle, Horace, and Aelius Donatus, humanists of the sixteenth century were caught between two imperatives: (1) that comedy, like tragedy, should represent an action whose cause is intelligible, and (2) that comedy, unlike tragedy, should represent characters who are ordinary or inferior to the audience. But (2) requires that the characters’ action is irrational and therefore unintelligible, or potentially so, which threatens to violate (1). In a word: the plot both needs to make sense and to revel in senselessness. How can the circle be squared?

Please note that for all in-person events, attendees must adhere to Washington University’s public health requirements, including the latest events and meetings protocol. Guests will be required to show a successful self-screening result and wear a mask at all times.

Event Type

Lectures & Presentations


Arts & Sciences


Humanities & Society



Event Contact


Speaker Information

Matt Rickard, Mellon Fellow in Modeling Interdisciplinary Inquiry in the Humanities.

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