Hysterical Laughter: Four Ancient Comedies about Women exhibits many of the interdisciplinary qualities that characterize teaching in the Classics. It is an innovative text that takes two important subfields of Classics-literature and gender studies-and brings them together into a new synthesis that provides instructors with a new and creative way to explore key issues into each of these disciplines. Instructors who teach courses in ancient comedy or drama are looking for ways to show students the social and cultural dimensions of theater. And instructors who teach courses on women or sexuality in the ancient world will want to use one of the most important sources we have from the classical world-comedy-as a way to show students how gender roles were constructed in ancient societies. There are many anthologies of Greek and Roman drama. There are many translations of say, Lysistrata, one of the most famous comedies of the ancient world. There are several books that examine women in antiquity. But Christenson's is the first volume that uses a literary genre-comedy-as a vehicle to explore another field (women/gender/sexuality).
The results are immensely creative and open up new teaching avenues for instructors. Christenson's volume provides all new translations (all translated by Christenson) of four ancient comedies, two Greek and two Roman, that question classical stereotypes about women and challenge configurations of gender in ancient society. Lysistrata (Aristophanes), Samia (Menander), Casina (Plautus), and Hecyra (Terence)-each regarded as among the finest classical comedies-illustrate the possibilities of theater as an agent for gender awareness and expose traditional feminine roles in real life as social constructions, asking students to assess the cultural and historical position of theater in ancient society.