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The Elements of Satire Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer, And without sneering teach the rest to sneer; Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike, Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike; Alike reserv'd to blame, or to commend, A tim'rous foe, and a suspicious friend. -Alexander Pope Satire should, like a polished razor keen, Wound with a touch that's scarcely felt or seen. -Lady Mary Wortley Montagu What is satire? • Comes from the latin word satura, meaning “dish of mixed ingredients”. • A technique in which a writer ridicules or criticizes a person, group, institution or event using certain literary devices. • Usually witty. • Almost always sarcastic or ironic. • Usually has a tone of “mock-approval” – sarcastically supporting the very thing it is criticizing. How does the definition of satire relate to its latin root? Forms of Satire • Drama (Tartuffe – Moliere, The Importance of Being Earnest- Oscar Wilde) • Journalism (The Onion) • Fiction (“A Modest Proposal” – Jonathan Swift, “The Lowest Animal” & The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain, ) • Poetry (The Rape of the Locke – Alexander Pope, various Jonathan Swift poems) • Graphic Arts (editorial cartoons) • Television programs (Saturday Night Live, The Chapelle Show, The Daily Show) • Music (With God on Our Side – Bob Dylan, Don’t Drink the Water – Dave Matthews band, Our Town – The GoGos) Literary Devices in Satire • Verbal irony/sarcasm • Euphemism • Parody • Juxtaposition (especially of normal and ridiculous situations) • Antithesis • Elevated diction/jargon • Double entendre • Hyperbolic overstatement/exaggeration • Comparison/analogy • Contrived diction/ ridiculous examples Verbal Irony Discuss: What is verbal irony? Example: “These shows feature scintillating shots of trucks being unloaded, sewing machines humming along and paint rollers being pushed up and down walls”. Discuss: Explain the verbal irony in the previous quotation. How does it add to the satirical tone of the piece? Euphemism Discuss: What is euphemism? Example: “sexually ambiguous young male designers” Discuss: Explain the euphemism. How does it add to the satirical tone of the piece? Parody Discuss: What is parody? Example: “PIMP MY TAX RETURN!” Teams of comely accountants trick out your1099 with chrome loopholes”. Discuss: Explain this example of parody and discuss how it adds to the satirical quality of the piece. Juxtaposition Discuss: What is juxtaposition? Example: ‘“GUESS MY TRANSPLANT!” Each contestant has a major organ transplant, and friends and family have to guess which one”. Discuss: Explain what two things are juxtaposed and how it adds to the satirical quality of this piece. Antithesis Discuss: What is antithesis? Example: “One would think shows like this would be as boring as watching paint dry since they sometimes consist of watching paint dry. But viewers are enthralled!” Discuss: Explain this antithesis and discuss how it adds to the satirical quality of the piece. Elevated diction/jargon Discuss: What is “elevated” diction? Examples: “begat”, “dictum”, “detritus”. Discuss: Why does the writer include elevated diction? How does it add to the satirical aspect of the piece? Double entendre Discuss: Define “double entendre”. Example: “watching paint dry” Discuss: Explain the dual meaning of the phrase and how it contributes to the satirical tone of the passage. Hyperbolic Overstatement/ Exaggeration Discuss: What is hyperbole and exaggeration? Give your own example. Example: “ the sort of den to wash away care and herald the coming of paradise on earth”. Discuss: What does this hyperbolic statement allude to and how does it contribute to the satirical tone of the piece? Comparison/Analogy Discuss: Typically, what is the purpose of a comparison or analogy? Example: “”they transform a once normal if unremarkable room into the interior design equivalent of the old Funkadelic concert costumes”. Discuss: What is the purpose of this analogy? How does it add to the satirical tone of the piece? Funkadelic!!!! Contrived diction/ ridiculous examples Ø Find a made-up word or ridiculous situation in the article. Ø “…who descend upon bland suburban rec rooms, closets and garages while the owner is away or in a coma.” Ø What makes this situation “ridiculous”? Are there any other examples in the article? Why Satire? Now that you know the elements of satire, what do you think makes satire effective? Why do writers use satire instead of criticizing the person, group or institution directly? Your Turn Read the article from The Onion and find examples of satirical devices. Then, write a Reading Response responding to the 2005 AP prompt.
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