This class considers romantic comedy in literature spanning over 2000 years of a mostly Western tradition. We will look at examples of Greek, Roman, and Shakespearean drama and the bawdy stories of Boccaccio, Chaucer, and Rabelais; investigate love in the social satire of Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde; and try to understand the uneasy relationship between farce and romance, violence and redemptive humor, satire and festivity in comic art. We will focus on certain continuities: the body as object and source of rebellious pleasure; transgression against social norms corrected and reordered through laughter; verbal play and wit; identity and mistaken identity; political protest and social reform. As the class develops, we will also note the ways writers appropriate and reshape comic plots and structures from the past for new uses. Discussion will frequently draw on examples of popular and contemporary forms of comic expression.