Murray Lecture 2017 Presents
John Gruber-Miller, Professor of Classics
Edwin R. and Mary E. Mason Professor of Languages at Cornell College
Honors Bachelor of Arts Alumnus, 1979

“Defining a Comic Tradition: Plautus and the Marx Brothers.”

Conaton Board Room, Saturday, March 18, 4:00-5:15; Reception to Follow: Free and Open to the Public



Professor John Gruber-Miller teaches a range of courses in classics, Greek, and Latin and is the advisor for Cornell's interdisciplinary classical studies program. He is the editor of When Dead Tongues Speak: Teaching Beginning Greek and Latin (Oxford University Press, 2006), and of Teaching Classical Languages, a peer-reviewed journal dedicated to Latin and Greek pedagogy. He maintains two educational websites: Ariadne: Resources for Athenaze and Let’s Review Greek! In 2012, he received the Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Classics at the College Level from the American Philological Association and an Ovatio from the Classical Association of the Middle West and South. His current research project, Imagining Ancient Corinth: An Introduction to Greek Literature and Culture—a born digital textbook—probes the intersection of spatial humanities, online commentaries, material culture, and second language acquisition.

Critics of comedy have generally classified the Marx Brothers as Anarchists or as ethnic comedians or as members of a larger Comedian tradition. None of these designations gives the Marx Brothers their due. In fact, these labels reduce their films to witty bits rather than take their entire comic world into consideration. In examining their success at creating this distinctive comic world, it becomes clear that the Marx Brothers are part of a long tradition going all the way back to the Roman comic playwright Plautus, best known for his tricky slaves, verbal pyrotechnics, actors’ rapport with the audience, and send-ups of romantic comedy.