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Satire: The Enlightenment to Postmodernism

ENGL 241.301
instructor(s):
fulfills requirements:
Sector 5: 19th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Pre-1900 Seminar Requirement of the Standard Major
Elective Seminar of the Standard Major

This course will survey the evolution of satire from the “Age of Reason” through its resurgence in Postmodernism. We will see how satirical literature emerged as a comical shadow of modern philosophy, political theory, and science in order to represent the darker and even absurd sides of these modern enthusiasms. Writers such as Jonathan Swift and Lawrence Sterne used the resources of irony, wit, and the profane to check the ambitious projects of knowledge production and social organization that had taken their century by storm. This legacy continued through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and we will search for formal continuities and breaks across this expanse of literary history. We will also ask how satirical humor and irony continue to pose fundamental challenges for interpretation—problems that arise when we take humor seriously—and how we might distinguish satire from other literary techniques such as parody and pastiche. Readings will likely include works and excerpts by Swift, Sterne, Burney, Edgeworth, Austen, Flaubert, Woolf, O’Brien, Orwell, and Kubrick among others. Requirements will include several short papers and one longer research paper.