Matthew Hodgart’s Satire is the latest entry in Transaction’sHumor Studies Series. Satire, according to JonathanSwift, is a mirror where beholders generally discovereverybody’s face but their own, and over twenty-fourcenturies the mirror of satirical literature has taken onmany shapes. Yet certain techniques recur continually,certain themes are timeless, and some targets are perennial:politics (the mismanagement of men by other men)has always been a target of satire, as has the war betweensexes.
The universality of satire as a mode and creative impulseis demonstrated by the cross-cultural developmentof lampoon and travesty. Its deep roots and variety areshown by the persistence of allegory, fable, aphorism, andother literary satirical subgenres. Hodgart analyses satireat some of its most exuberant moments in Western literature,from Aristophanes to Brecht. His literary analysis issupplemented by a selection and discussion of prints andcartoons for comparison.Satire continues to help us make sense of the conventionsthat seem to have been almost geneticallytransmitted from their satiric ancestors to our digitalcontemporaries. This is especially evident in Hodgart’srepeated references to satire’s predilection for the ephemeral,for camouflaging itself among the everyday, forspeaking to the moment, and thus for integrating itselfas deeply as possible into the society which both breedsit and suffers its criticism. Brian Connery’s new introductionplaces Hodgart’s analysis in its proper place in thedevelopment of twentieth-century criticism.
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