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Satire and Irony

ENGL 049.001
instructor(s):
MWF 12

How important is it to identify the target of a satire in order to enjoy it? After all, when we recall a satire that we took pleasure in reading, what do we remember most: the lessons it taught us or the way it pleased us? What is it, in other words, that endures about a satire: its instructive intent, its comedic effect, or both together? To consider these and other questions of intent, interpretation, and literary longevity, this course will begin by exploring the origins of satire in the western literary tradition. From writings by ancient Greek and Roman authors, we will move quickly to the great age of satire in English literature, the eighteenth century. Then we will turn to satirical works in the nineteenth century and beyond from English and American literature, as well as from film, to see how satire survives and changes. Among the authors we will read are: Swift, Pope, John Gay, Frances Burney, Byron, Dickens, Margaret Atwood, and Martin Amis; movie viewing may include Fargo, Heathers, and Dr. Strangelove. Two five-page papers, several shorter papers, and a final exam will be required.