ENG 362 Satire: Execution by Words

Nora F. Crow, Th 1:00 PM-2:50 PM

The ancient Irish satirists thought they could rhyme their enemies to death. The origin of satire is surely the urge to kill, though the genre developed in subtler ways as well. Long thought to be the most cerebral of literary kinds, as well as the most aggressive, the satire we'll read will challenge our intelligence and ingenuity. We'll also have a lot of fun. The classroom usually reverberates with laughter as we watch the sly trickster -- the satirist -- unpacking his bag of wit, irony, parody, and sarcasm.

We'll learn about both the theory of satire and the development of the genre from ancient times to the present. We'll explore how irony works; how outsiders view the satirist (especially biographical and psychoanalytic responses); how satirists doubt or defend themselves; how satiric violence and obscenity operate; and why the genre appropriates fantasy and allegory. We'll try out various definitions of this protean mode and test them against works by the Roman poets Horace and Juvenal, William Shakespeare, Jonathan Swift, Henry Fielding, Lord Byron, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Evelyn Waugh, Nathanael West, Kurt Vonnegut, and others. And, as the climax of the course, we'll use the example of Jane Austen to explore the differences between male and female satire and satirists.

Students will have the opportunity to compose an original satire of five or six pages, as well as to write a longer essay (ten to twelve pages) on a subject of their choosing.


This class counts as both a course in theory and a course in literature before 1800.