Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A few notes on Satire

Definition: a genre of literature, art, drama, film, song lyrics, or other media which points out the follies of the human race. Any abuses, corruptions or shortcomings found in politics, religion, social institutions, or human nature itself are appropriate objects of satire.


Goal: To hold up to scorn and ridicule those conditions in the world most in need of reform. In this sense, satire has a moral, didactic, or corrective purpose. To portray as shameful those aspects of human life and behavior which fall short of an implied moral standard of conduct.


Methods: To reach its goals, satire employs many devices of language:


First, irony: what is said in a satire almost always has another meaning.


Second, sarcasm: sarcasm and verbal irony are not identical but are usually closely related. In satire, the tone of the language is often cutting, scornful, in a word, sarcastic.


Exaggeration, understatement, and double entendre are also useful tools of the satirist. Wit and derisive laughter are used to shock the reader into recognizing the problem (even when the problem is ourselves), laughing at those who represent or embody this problem, and seeing a better alternative. Thus, satirists seek to mend or improve a fallen or corrupt human race or its institutions. Satire is therefore inherently moral, a literary offshoot of moral philosophy.


History: the term itself and early practitioners trace back to the writing of Roman authors such as Horace and Juvenal. In English, the first half of the 18th century is often referred to as the Age of Satire, because of the importance of two of its greatest practitioners, Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope.