Latin 221/321: Roman Comedy

Instructor: Prof. Sarah Brucia Breitenfeld: Chambers 2135,

Class Meetings: MWF 11:30am–12:20pm in Chambers 1003

Office Hours: Tuesdays 2:30–3:30pm and by appointment

Course Description

Forced to immigrate to Rome from Carthage as an enslaved person and later freed, the playwright Publius Terentius Afer, also known as Terence, was a popular Roman author whose six comedies continue to be read to this day. In particular, his comic play Eunuchus ("The Eunuch") was an immediate success upon its debut in 161 BCE, prompting an encore performance and earning Terence more money than any of his other comedies. 

In this course, we will read Eunuchus in its entirety, examining not only Terence's lively and conversational Latin, but also his engagement with the complex dynamics of Roman daily life, including topics such as gender, slavery, prostitution, and sexual assault. By placing Eunuchus in conversation with comedies by Terence, Plautus, and Menander (to be read in translation), we will explore the ways in which Terence incorporates the established themes of New Comedy, and the ways in which his Eunuchus is unique for its genre. Finally, we will consider Terence's influence on subsequent writers and thinkers, including Shakespeare, Phillis Wheatley, Thornton Wilder, and Maya Angelou.

  • Satisfies Literary Studies, Creative Writing, and Rhetoric distribution requirement.
  • Counts towards the Classical Languages and Literature major and as an elective for the Classical Studies major.
  • Counts towards the Latin minor and the interdisciplinary minor in Global Literary Theory.