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Roman Visual Humor

  • By: John R. Clarke
  • In: Encyclopedia of Humor Studies
  • Edited by: Salvatore Attardo
  • Subject:General Media, Communication & Cultural Studies, Sociology of Culture

Visual humor is culture-specific, making it difficult for outsiders to a culture to understand it. The more context we have for a visual representation, the better chance we have of understanding its humor. We can understand the context surrounding a visual representation by analyzing the building where it came from, by considering the circumstances of viewing it, by questioning the meanings of the image itself, and by comparing it with nonhumorous images of the same type. But the most useful question about context is how a humorous Roman image indexes Roman attitudes about the practices of everyday life.

Figure 1 Pompeii, Tavern of Salvius (VI. 14. 36), North Wall of Room A, Scenes III and IV. National Archaeological Museum, Naples, inv. 11482.

Source: Drawing by the author, ...

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