Comedy in the Pro Caelio

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Author: Katherine A. Geffcken
Product Code: 2875
ISBN: 978-0-86516-287-7
Pages: 100
Availability: In stock.
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Reprint of the 1973 E. J. Brill edition, with an appendix on the In Clodium et Curionem


Cicero applies characterization and dramatic patterns borrowed from comedy in his defense of M. Caelius Rufus. He successfully shifts the attention from his client's possible guilt to persons linked with the prosecution, in the process entertaining the court and audience with witty, brilliant caricatures.

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Review by: Jeffrey Buller, Classical Outlook - April 1, 1997
When it was announced several years ago that Cicero’s Pro Caelio would be added as an acceptable alternate for the AP Latin Literature syllabus, teachers began searching for materials that would assist them in teaching this particular text. Now one of the best such resources, Katherine Geffcken’s fascinating (though hitherto difficult-to-obtain) volume on the Pro Caelio, originally published by Brill in 1973, has been actively and inexpensively reissued by Bolchazy-Carducci. …it is delightful to have Geffcken’s book available again and the timing for its reappearance should be regarded as nothing less than perfect. Full text of the Review Comedy in the Pro Caelio. By KATHERINE A. GEFFCKEN. 1973. Wauconda IL: Bolchazy-Carducci, 1995. Pp. viii and 89. Paper. $20. When it was announced several years ago that Cicero's Pro Caelio would be added as an acceptable alternate for the AP Latin Literature syllabus, teachers began searching for materials that would assist them in teaching this particular text. Now one of the best such resources, Katherine Geffcken's fascinating (though hitherto difficult-to-obtain) volume on the Pro Caelio, originally published by Brill in 1973, has been attractively and inexpensively reissued by Bolchazy-Carducci. Geffcken's central thesis is that Cicero used comedy in his defense of Caelius so as to ingratiate his client to a hostile jury that had been forced to spend its holiday hearing a court case. Cicero's use of comedy also serves to mock Caelius' opponents and to minimize Caelius' offenses by comparing him to the naughty (but ultimately harmless) young men of the Roman stage. Even 20 years after its first publication, this remains a thoroughly cogent approach to the speech as a whole. Bolchazy-Carducci's reprint of the volume is thus both useful and inexpensive enough that every student in an AP course could be assigned a copy, with the teacher making periodic assignments either to confirm or challenge the various points that Geffcken raises. Taken by itself, Geffcken's approach to the text achieves a great number of the goals set out in the AP syllabus. Yet a further advantage to basing a course upon Comedy in the Pro Caelio is that the work provides students with an excellent example of how to perform a "close reading" that they can then adopt in their exploration of other interpretations of the Pro Caelio or even of other works of ancient literature. If Comedy in the Pro Caelio has any limitations, it is in its occasional tendency towards jargon (appearing in such phrases as "the cognitive-perceptual theory of humor" on p. 6) and its overuse of psychological approaches (as in the author's gratuitous introduction of Erich Neumann's theories of the feminine archetype while discussing Clodia's lapses from the ideals of Roman womanhood [p. 31] or Arthur Koestler's theory of "bisociation" [p. 41] to explain why people laugh at the unexpected). Also, due to the work's original publication date, most of its references are now badly out of date and will be in need of scrupulous updating by the teacher. These limitations aside, it is delightful to have Geffcken's book available again and the timing for its reappearance should be regarded as nothing less than perfect. JEFFREY L. BULLER Georgia Southern University
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