La Cité du rire : la dérision et le politique à Athènes à l'époque classique

Abstract : In classical times, derision, understood as any message-delivered through gesture, through painting, music, and especially through the spoken word- where the purpose was to bring about laughter, taking as its target something or someone, was all over in the Athenian public space. The laws that governed the usage of language, and thus of derision, were at the time quite lax. Even still, for the temperament of the period, derision constituted an offense and could as a consequence fuel the fire of hate and discord, therefore weakening the social balance. Parrhesia, the concept of freedom of speech, that liberty that all of democratic Athens valued, did not by itself explain this paradoxal situation. It served more than anything to invoke the great political importance of derision. To begin with, it was one of the first lines of defense for political confrontations of weak intensity that flanked the regime of dissention that was the democratic politeia. On the other hand, derision was a critical tool, that the comic poet used to pinpoint the dysfunctions and errors of the democracy before an audience of citizens. It taught the people to better partake of their role in that democracy. At the same time, derision was used to belittle, on a symbolic level, the members of the elite and shallowly comfort the legitimacy of the people in their power. Finally, derision participated in the "fabric" of the community: not only as a normative power, with its refraction at the core of civic institutions increased, but equally as a method of reducing social tensions by letting citizens express themselves in an ephemeral and/or muted way.
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Jean-Noël Allard. La Cité du rire : la dérision et le politique à Athènes à l'époque classique. Histoire. Université Panthéon-Sorbonne - Paris I, 2015. Français. ⟨NNT : 2015PA010609⟩. ⟨tel-01873502⟩

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