Search Results

You are looking at 1 - 1 of 1 items for

  • Author or Editor: Laura Loporcaro x
  • Search level: All x
Clear All


This paper presents a reading of the chapter on laughter in Quintilian’s Institutio oratoria (Inst. 6.3), the fullest treatise on ancient rhetoric extant. It argues that Inst. 6.3 can be better understood in light of the context of the treatise, and that it can be read as a little mise-en-abyme of, and reversely magnifying lens on, the whole. First, it briefly outlines Quintilian’s two main claims to originality: his aim to educate the ideal orator, who is both technically and morally outstanding, and his thorough, but practical-minded didactic method. Then, it shows how the didactic spin of the treatise can be detected in his discussion of laughter, and how his remarks on the nature of laughter (and the laughable) characterize it as problematic both from a didactic point of view and for the conception of the ideal orator. The difficulties to classify laughter make it hard to teach and control. It is attributed the potential to undermine the very social status and moral character of the orator: it is inexplicable, and potentially dangerous for anyone trying to elicit it. Nevertheless, Quintilian treats laughter as a part of the orator’s rhetorical arsenal, which shows that it is a powerful weapon the benefits of which must outweigh its risks. This raises the question wherein its utility lies exactly, which is addressed in the last section of the paper. Drawing some parallels to modern theories of laughter allows to better understand some dynamics behind laughter in a forensic context that Quintilian only implies. Overall, this paper aims to present a case study on the extent to which the Institutio is an artful and thoroughly thought-through literary construct, and to make a small contribution to recent scholarship on the literariness of ancient didactic prose.

Open Access
In: Old World: Journal of Ancient Africa and Eurasia