Greek Laughter and Tears

Antiquity and After

Edited by Margaret Alexiou, Douglas Cairns

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Explores the range and complexity of human emotions and their transmission across cultural traditions

What makes us laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time? How do these two primal, seemingly discrete and non-verbal modes of expression intersect in everyday life and ritual, and what range of emotions do they evoke? How may they be voiced, shaped and coloured in literature and liturgy, art and music?

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Preliminaries: Preface, List of Illustrations, Notes on contributors 1. Introduction Margaret Alexiou and Douglas Cairns Part 1 - Ancient Keynotes: From Homer to Lucian2. Laughter and Tears in Early Greek LiteratureRichard Seaford3. Imagining Divine Laughter in Homer and LucianStephen Halliwell4. Parody, Symbol and the Literary Past in LucianCalum MaciverPart 2 - Ancient Models, Byzantine Collections: Epigrams, Riddles and Jokes5. ‘Tantalus Ever in Tears’: The Greek Anthology as a Source of Emotions in Late AntiquityJudith Herrin6. ‘Do you think you’re clever? Solve this riddle, then!’ The Comic Side of Byzantine Enigmatic PoetrySimone Beta7. Philogelos: An Anti-intellectual Joke-bookStephanie WestPart 3 - Byzantine Perspectives: Tears and Laughter, Theory and Praxis8. ‘Messages of the Soul’: Tears, Smiles, Laughter and Emotions Expressed by them in Byzantine LiteratureMartin Hinterberger9. Towards a Byzantine Theory of the Comic?Aglae Pizzone10. Staging Laughter and Tears: Libanius, Chrysostom and the Riot of the StatuesJan R. Stenger11. Lamenting for the Fall of Jerusalem in the Seventh Century CEIoannis Papadogiannakis12. Guiding Grief: Liturgical Poetry and Ritual Lamentation in Early ByzantiumSusan Harvey Part 4 - Laughter, Power and Subversion13. Mime and the Dangers of Laughter in Late AntiquityRuth Webb14. Laughter on Display – Mimic Performances and the Danger of Laughing in ByzantiumPrzemesław Marciniak15. The Power of Amusement and the Amusement of Power: The Princely Frescoes of St. Sophia, Kiev, and their Connections to the Byzantine WorldElena Boeck16. Laughing at Eros and Aphrodite: Sexual Inversion and its Resolution in the Classicising Arts of Medieval ByzantiumAlicia WalkerPart 5 - Gender, Genre and Language: Loss and Survival17. Comforting Tears and Suggestive Smiles: To Laugh and Cry in the Komnenian NovelIngela Nilsson18. Do Brothers Weep? Male Grief, Mourning, Lament and Tears in Eleventh- and Twelfth-Century ByzantiumMargaret Mullett19. Laments by Nicetas Choniates and Others for the Fall of Constantinople in 1204Michael Angold20. ‘Words Filled With Tears’: Amorous Discourse as Lamentation in the Palaiologan RomancesPanagiotis Agapitos21. The Tragic, the Comic and Tragi-Comic in Cretan Renaissance LiteratureDavid Holton22. Belisarius in the Shadow Theatre: The Private Calvary of a Legendary GeneralAnna Stavrakopoulou23. AfterwordRoderick BeatonAppendix: CHYROGLES, or The girl with two husbandsBibliographyIndex


This rich and informative book is diverse yet interconnected and carefully thought through by the editors. It is an absorbing and stimulating read, revealing the complexity and polysemy of laughter and tears in antiquity and Byzantium and touching on a variety of fascinating subjects, such as the cultural continuities and discontinuities between antiquity and Byzantium, and between paganism and Christianity; the history of emotions and of their expression in literature; and the relationship between both representations of emotions, and gender and genres.
Katarzyna Jazdzewska, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University, Warsaw, Bryn Mawr Classical Review
Greek Laughter and Tears is the first major overview to take the study of emotions beyond the classical period and fills an important scholarly gap inasmuch as it shows continuities and differences in the expression of emotions over the centuries. Not only does it offer a theoretical framework for the discourse of emotion in Greek literature, but it also illustrates the performance of emotion in specific classical and post-classical texts, making it a riveting read.
Prof M. D. Lauxtermann (Bywater and Sotheby Professor of Byzantine and Modern Greek Language and Literature, Oxford)
Margaret Alexiou is Professor Emerita of Modern Greek Studies and of Comparative Literature, Harvard University. She is the author of The Ritual Lament in Greek Tradition (Cambridge University Press, 1974, Rowman & Littlefield second edition, 2002) and After Antiquity: Greek Language, Myth and Metaphor (Cornell University Press, 2002).

Douglas Cairns is Professor of Classics in the University of Edinburgh. He has published widely on Greek literature, society and thought, especially the emotions. He is the author of Sophocles: Antigone (Bloomsbury Academic, 2016), Bacchylides: Five Epinician Odes (Francis Cairns, 2010), and Aidôs: The Psychology and Ethics of Honour and Shame in Ancient Greek Literature (OUP, 1993). He is the series editor for our Edinburgh Leventis Studies series and a co-editor of three edited collections with EUP.

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