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satire

satire, term applied to any work of literature or art whose objective is ridicule. It is more easily recognized than defined. From ancient times satirists have shared a common aim: to expose foolishness in all its guises—vanity, hypocrisy, pedantry, idolatry, bigotry, sentimentality—and to effect reform through such exposure. The many diverse forms their statements have taken reflect the origin of the word satire, which is derived from the Latin satura, meaning "dish of mixed fruits," hence a medley.

Classical Satirists

Outstanding among the classical satirists was the Greek dramatist Aristophanes, whose play The Clouds (423 BC) satirizes Socrates as the embodiment of atheism and sophistry, while The Wasps (422) satirizes the Athenian court system. The satiric styles of two Roman poets, Horace and Juvenal, became models for writers of later ages. The satire of Horace is mild, gently amused, yet sophisticated, whereas that of Juvenal is vitriolic and replete with moral indignation; Shakespeare later wrote Horatian satire and Jonathan Swift wrote Juvenalian satire.

The Golden Age of Satire

From the beast fables, fabliaux, and Chaucerian caricatures to the extended treatments of John Skelton, Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Erasmus, and Cervantes, the satirical tradition flourished throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, culminating in the golden age of satire in the late 17th and early 18th cent. The familiar names of Swift, Samuel Butler, John Dryden, Alexander Pope, Richard Steele, Henry Fielding, and William Hogarth, in England, and of Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux, La Fontaine, Molière, and Voltaire, in France, suggest not only the nature of the controversies that provided a target for the satirist's darts in both nations, but also the rediscovery and consequent adaptation of the classical models to individual talents. Pope, for example, wrote The Rape of the Lock (1714), a mock epic about the crisis that occurs when a lock of Lady Belinda's hair is snipped off by a suitor as she sips her coffee. The poem is based upon an actual happening, and Pope's Horatian tone gently castigates the frivolous life of London society. Swift, on the other hand, echoes Juvenal's "savage indignation." In Gulliver's Travels (1726), Swift exposes humanity in all its baseness and cruelty. Throughout his encounters with the inhabitants of imaginary lands, starting with the Lilliputians and ending with the Houyhnhnms—the latter are horses endowed with noble attributes, while their servants are bestial, filthy humanoids called Yahoos—Gulliver's (and Swift's) misanthropy grows, culminating in his refusal, once he is reunited with his family, to eat with creatures so closely resembling Yahoos.

The Nineteenth Century

In the 19th cent., satire gave way to a more gentle form of criticism. Manners and morals were still ridiculed but usually in the framework of a longer work, such as a novel. However, satire can be found in the poems of Lord Byron, in the librettos of William S. Gilbert, in the plays of Oscar Wilde and G. B. Shaw, and in the fiction of W. M. Thackeray, Charles Dickens, Samuel Butler, and many others. American satirists of the period include Washington Irving, James Russell Lowell, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Mark Twain.

The Twentieth Century

Although 20th-century satire continues to register Horatian or Juvenalian reactions to the enormities of an age dominated by fear of the atom bomb and plagued by pollution, racism, drugs, planned obsolescence, and the abuse of power, critics have discerned some shifts in its source. In some instances the satirist is the audience rather than the artist. Hence the enthusiasm in the 1960s for "camp" —defined by Susan Sontag as meaning works of art that can be enjoyed but not taken seriously, even though they may have been created seriously—indeed, works that are enjoyed for the very qualities that make them second-rate. Sontag's examples of "camp" include Tiffany lamps, the ballet Swan Lake, and the movie Casablanca. Occasionally the audience is the victim of the satire. The so-called put-on, whether a play (Samuel Beckett's Breath, in which breathing is heard on a blacked-out stage), a joke (Lenny Bruce's nightclub routines), or an artifact (John Chamberlain's smashed-up cars), seeks to confuse its audience by presenting the fraudulent as a true work of art, thus rendering the whole concept of "art" questionable. More conventional contemporary satirists of note are Sinclair Lewis, James Thurber, Aldous Huxley, Evelyn Waugh, W. H. Auden, Philip Roth, and Joseph Heller.

Bibliography

See G. Highet, The Anatomy of Satire (1962); L. Feinberg, The Satirist (1963); A. Kernan, The Plot of Satire (1965); critical anthology ed. by J. Russell and A. Brown (1967); J. R. Clark, ed., Satire—That Blasted Art (1973); M. Seidel, The Satiric Inheritance (1979); H. D. Weinbrot, Eighteenth Century Satire: Essays on Text and Context from Dryden to Peter Pindar (1988).

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"satire." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"satire." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/satire

"satire." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved April 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/satire

Satire

Satire

The word satire is often thought to be derived from the Latin word satura, originally meaning the vessel used for carrying harvest produce. It came to mean a mixture, and then a mixed form of entertainment that people might have at harvest time, consisting of songs, jokes, and other kinds of humor. In its broadest sense, then, satire is a mixed kind of humorous entertainment related to comedy that focuses on people and their behavior.

In a more particular sense, satire is a literary form, traced back to the Romans and in particular to the works of Juvenal (c. 50/60127 CE) and Horace (658 BCE), who both wrote about their own times, though in different tones. Horace is characterized as more urbane and witty, Juvenal as more savage and critical. For these writers, a satire was a particular sort of poem with a strict form and specific content. It was this definition that pervaded English literature in the work of John Donne (15721631), John Dryden (16311700), Alexander Pope (16881744), and Samuel Johnson (17091784) in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

From the Renaissance onward, the works of Horace and Juvenal, together with works by other great Greek and Roman writers, including Homer (ninth to eighth century BCE), Virgil (7019 BCE), and Ovid (43 BCE c. 17 CE), were the basis of an educated persons reading. The one hundred years from the Restoration in 1660 constituted the great age of satire in English literature, known as the Augustan Age, referring to the period in ancient Rome when Augustus Caesar (63 BCE14 CE) was the first emperor. English writers produced their own translations or versions of such classical works. For example, the Epistle to Arbuthnot (1735) is Alexander Popes prologue to his own imitation of Horaces satires, and Dr. Johnson based his London (1738) and The Vanity of Human Wishes (1749) on Juvenals Satires 3 and 10.

The eighteenth century, however, also saw the rise of prose satire, especially in the works of Jonathan Swift (16671745), whose Gullivers Travels (1726) and A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country (1729) have influenced most satirical writers since.

One significant reason for the pervasiveness and popularity of satire in England during the eighteenth century may have been peoples reactions to the disorder and division that they experienced during the civil war of the 1640s. Satire became an effective method of drawing attention to the ways in which human behavior falls short of its ideal and of trying to correct that within an accepted political and social framework. The job of the satirist, therefore, became, as Jonathan Swift put it, to cure the vices of mankind. It is this moral purpose that underlies great satirical achievements.

Along with this moral purpose, features that distinguish satire from other kinds of writing are its flexibility of tone and its consistent use of wit and irony. The most consistent target for satire in any period is hypocrisy, and the predominant method is irony, where the reader always has to be alert to the conflict between the literal and actual meanings of what is being said. Hence, although the golden age is perhaps the greatest age of satire in English and although writing is the dominant form of satire, nevertheless satire appears in many different periods and in many different forms: writing, painting, and more recently television and film.

It is often the case that effective satire can be ephemeral. Particular examples of hypocrisy come and go quickly, and so references can soon become dated as their occasion slips from memory. Obvious examples may be found in the contemporary television series South Park or The Simpsons or in political caricatures or cartoons.

There is also a sense in which satire is culture bound. Because it depends on wit and irony, it is neither accessible nor thriving in societies and groups where fundamentalism or literalism is the prevailing ethos. Throughout history there have been those who can only read literally and who have therefore missed the whole thrust of a satirical work. This was true of some readers of Swifts A Modest Proposal, just as it has been true of some viewers of the satirical film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006).

Peter Buckroyd

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"Satire." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Satire

574. Satire

  1. Arbuthnot, Mr . cliché expert who spoke exclusively in the clichés of each subject on which he was interviewed. [Am. Lit.: Frank Sullivan columns in The New Yorker ]
  2. Clouds, The attacks Socrates and his philosophy. [Gk. Drama: Haydn & Fuller, 144]
  3. Frogs, The lampoons the plays of Euripides and his advanced thinking. [Gk. Drama: Haydn & Fuller, 276]
  4. Joseph Andrews satirizes the sentimentality of contemporary fiction. [Br. Lit.: Fielding Joseph Andrews ]
  5. Knight of the Burning Pestle, The play by Beaumont and Fletcher burlesques the excesses of tales of chivalry. [Br. Drama: Haydn & Fuller, 399]
  6. M°A°S°H medical farce on the horrors of war. [Am. Cinema and TV: Halliwell, 474]
  7. Pogo comic strip rife with political satire. [Comics: Berger, 172]
  8. Praise of Folly, The uses tongue-in-cheek praise to satirize contemporary customs, institutions, and beliefs. [Dutch Philos.: Erasmus The Praise of Folly in Haydn & Fuller, 607]
  9. Scourge of Princes Pietro Aretino (1492-1556), wrote wicked satires on nobles and notables. [Ital. Lit.: Benét, 47]
  10. Teufelsdrockh, Herr fictitious professor, Carlyles mouthpiece for criticism of Victorian life. [Br. Lit.: Sartor Resartus ]
  11. Troilus and Cressida Homers heroes are reduced in character and satirized. [Br. Drama: Shakespeare Troilus and Cressida ]
  12. Ubu Roi burlesques bourgeois values through outlandish political adventurism, including assassination, mock heroics, and buffoonery. [Fr. Drama: Alfred Jarry Ubu Roi in Benét, 1036]
  13. Zuleika Dobson burlesques sentimental novels of the Edwardian era. [Br. Lit.: Magill II, 1169]

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satire

satire Literary work in which human foibles and institutions are mocked, ridiculed, and parodied. In Roman times, a satire was a poem in hexameters, a form established by the work of Lucilius, Horace, and Juvenal. In the Middle Ages, it often took the form of fabliaux or bestiaries, using animal characters to illustrate typical human failings. Since Thomas More's Utopia (1516), utopian or dystopian fiction, such as Zamyatin's We (1924) and Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726), has frequently been used as a medium for satire. Dramatists have often employed the form, as in the plays of Aristophanes, Ben Jonson, Molière, Oscar Wilde, and Bertolt Brecht.

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satire

sat·ire / ˈsaˌtīr/ • n. the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues. ∎  a play, novel, film, or other work that uses satire: a stinging satire on American politics. ∎  a genre of literature characterized by the use of satire. DERIVATIVES: sat·i·rist / ˈsatərist/ n.

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"satire." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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satire

satire poetical (or prose) work in which vices or follies are ridiculed. XVI. — (O)F. satire or L. satira, later form of satura (in earliest use) verse composition treating of a veriety of subjects, spec. application of the sense ‘medley’.
So satiric(al) XVI. — F. or late L. satirize XVII. — F. satiriser. Hence satirist XVI.

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satire

satire the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues. The word comes (in the early 16th century) from French, or from Latin satira, later form of satura ‘poetic medley’.

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satire

satire •sapphire • backfire • campfire •shellfire • ceasefire • misfire • spitfire •speechifier •humidifier, solidifier •modifier • codifier • amplifier •vilifier •mollifier, qualifier •nullifier • magnifier • indemnifier •signifier • personifier • unifier •typifier • stupefier •clarifier, scarifier •terrifier, verifier •gentrifier • glorifier • purifier •classifier, pacifier •specifier • intensifier • crucifier •emulsifier • versifier •gratifier, ratifier •sanctifier • identifier • testifier •prettifier • quantifier • fortifier •beautifier • stultifier • justifier •liquefier • wildfire • watchfire •bonfire • crossfire • bushfire • gunfire •surefire • lammergeier • multiplier •outlier • Niemeyer • quagmire •vampire • empire • occupier • umpire •hairdryer • prophesier • satire •Blantyre • saltire • haywire • tripwire •retrochoir • underwire

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