The City as Comedy: Society and Representation in Athenian Drama

By Gregory W. Dobrov | Go to book overview

THOMAS K. HUBBARD


Utopianism and the Sophistic City in Aristophanes

The recent essays of David Konstan (in this collection) and Bernhard Zimmermann, together with the publication of Doyne Dawson's important new monograph on the utopian tradition in Greek philosophy and political thought, indicate a renewed interest in Greek theoretical conceptions of the polis and their reflection in the most immanently "political" of all literary genres--Attic Old Comedy. 1 Zimmermann and Konstan each work from an expansive and inclusive definition of utopia, encompassing both its traditional folkloric and its theoretical forms. Konstan presents a suggestive schema of four types of Aristophanic utopia--the anomian, the antinomian, the eunomian, and the megalonomian; while his analysis concentrates on the Birds, his schema can clearly be applied in one form or another to much of the Aristophanic corpus. Konstan's general view of the utopian elements in Aristophanes is as positive and festive gestures of ideological critique directed toward contemporary Athenian society Zimmermann's view is more ambiguous, emphasizing the ultimate impracticality of some utopian designs. Without diminishing the valuable contributions these two essays have made, I would like to propose a more limited and restrictive definition of utopia, confining the concept to serious philosophical treatments of the ideal state, and then reconsider the position of Aristophanic comedy in relation to such intellectual paradigms.

A useful and relevant distinction is made by W. H. Auden in his essay on Dickens, "Dingley Dell & The Fleet": 2

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