Tuesday, February 14, 2006

On Satire, On Sturm, On Drang, On Donder and Blitzen...


Leafing through my "Glossary of Literary Terms" again, trying to apply its academic classifications to something much less "literary," ie. the ordinary novel, without my hand stretching toward my luger.
Came across the entry Satire.

Satire, I am reliably informed, can be classified by aim and tone.
Horatian satire - urbane and tolerant of men and their ambitions; and Juvenalian satire - a diatribe against societal vices and corruptions - sort of an extended Aesop I suppose, with more anger.
Satire may also be distinguished by its vehicle or form of presentation.
Formal or direct - a first person or dialogue ( Screwtape Letters?); or indirect - where the plot allows the characters to make themselves ridiculous and open to scorn by their thoughts and actions.
Satire, the passage goes on to say, should be distinquished from Comedy - whose aim to to provoke laughter as an end in itself; while satire uses laughter as a weapon to ridicule a subject outside the work. This victim may be an individual, a type of person, a class, a political or religious movement, a nation, or the entire race of mankind.

I don't think I understand all this any better than I did in first year.
In fact, it sounds incredibly dull when analyzed this way.
And it seems to me that satire is not so easily separated from either high ( or low) comedy. Just as irony is sometimes difficult to separate from plain sarcasm.
But I do know what I find delicious; and it's not some lengthy and carefully constructed parable novel about how we're all going to hell in a handbasket. Been there. Read that.
I take a certain malicious pleasure in a charcter who is identified briefly by some salient characteristic and pilloried thereby.
To quote Dryden:

How easy it is to call rogue and villan, and that wittily! But how hard to make a man appear a fool, a blockhead, or a knave, without using any of those opprobrious terms! There is still a vast difference between the slovenly butchering of a man, and the fineness of a stroke that separates the head from the body, and leaves it standing in its place.
The Gurkha method. Cue in "Shadwell never deviates into sense."
Obviously, though, Dryden did not have the benefit of Bonnie's ( see sidebar) jokes.

And I enjoy the character who innocently reveals, by their words, thoughts or actions, some foible, often endearing.
Or a character who is aware of his own weaknesses, and comments with wry exasperation upon them.
Then I chortle - and decide to find the writer's other books.

Abadar: a teetotaller; Anglo-Indian; from ca 1870. From Hindustani for a water-carrier.
Apple-dumpling shop: A woman's bosom; late 18th c.; from apple - a woman's breast.
Apple-monger/apple squire/apron-squire: Colloquial; a harlot's bully/ a male bawd; monger is late 18th c.; squire is late 16th c. >.
Apples: Testicles; low; 19th c. >.
P.S.: Ric ( see sidebar) has up a particularly sweet piece of nostalgia on valentines.

31 comments:

Erik Ivan James said...

Isn't satire now the PC term for what we used to call insulting or demeaning?

Bernita said...

If it is, Erik, it's certainly alive and well: political satire, social satire...
Seems to me the PC label best attaches to earnest efforts to remove anything from the language which might possibly offend someone, somewhere, sometime.
Those same people, of course, have no problem satirizing those they suspect and accuse of using it.

Ric said...

Happy Valentine's Day!
Thanks for the plug, Bernita.

Bernita said...

Loved it, Ric. You do that so well.

Savannah Jordan said...

Happy Valentine's day, Bernita!!

Y'know, in some ways, satire could be construed with snark.

Rick said...

They say in theater that satire is what closes on Saturday night. Which helps explain why we don't see a lot of it around lately.

Bernita said...

And Happy to you, Savannah, and everyone who drops by.
I think it could be, though I'm perennially unclear about the distinctions. And there's parody, which may or may not snark...

Savannah Jordan said...

It's all symantics, really. Depends on the variables of comedic vehicle and victim.

Bernita said...

We don't, Rick?
I think I agree with Savanna, the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Dennie McDonald said...

Happy Valentine's Day

ivan said...

Happy Valentine's day.

--Lemuel Gulliver
(much underrated satirical character)

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I think it's a combination of your explanation Bernita...sorta like ironic comedy....Happy VD...my DH says that...It cracks him up....me...I usually shake my head..but today I'm into satire!

Ric said...

Happy VD?

That's funny!

ivan said...

Bernita,
Doubting Thomas sending you
Cyrano de Bergerac-style mash notes on my site without benefit of my long-nosed editing and delivery.
He likes your mind, yes, yes, your mind.
What am I going to do with you guys?
Send you a mash note too, I suppose.
Threesome would be the thing, but
Thomas says watch it Ivan, on your prurient copy.
Hah.

Bernita said...

Wondered why Bonnie was celebrating Victory in Denmark, Ric, and then I wondered why you thought it was funny....

Ivan, I find myself laughing helpless half the time on your site. I shall rush over.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

oh, ha...that was funny Bernita!!

What was victory in Denmark??? Obviously a battle, but!!!

Isn't it funny how different countries use different phrases or words or initials...it's like the book your expounding on now, Bernita!

Bernita said...

Actually, I don't know of one called that, Bonnie, though there may well be - in the history of any country or province starting with "D.".
Just wanted to tease Ric for teasing you.

nessili said...

Back on the satire thing...

A Modest Proposal, by Jonathan Swift.

Need I say more?


P.S. VD? Ain't going there.

ivan said...

Nessil,
A Tom Swiftie reader, I know you
are aware that Swift launched a satire on humanity itself. What fools ideed...
I did have a scan of Juvenal in the raw. Prescient. Spot-on. Maybe a grand-daddy of Jonahtan himself.

Well in the past, he needn't to have worried
about political correctness:

"Every one loves a fairy.."

ivan said...

Satire:
Well, I might not be too hot on
continuity, but bigod I'm erudite.

Bernita said...

Or Gulliver's Travels by the same,or Johnson's Volpone, or Dryden's MacFlecknoe, Absalom and Achitophel,Pope's Moral Essays,Byron's Don Juan,even Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One.
Shaw's satric comedies, and Gilbert and Sullivan, or Gay's Beggar's Opera, as well as Punch and the New Yorker.
You had to go and say it, Nesilli.

ivan said...

Post script:
All the men on my site continue to stand in awe of your erudiion, especially the non-French speakers.
What Ivan has wrought!

Bernita said...

Not me, Ivan, but I can crib a list as well as anyone.

Bernita said...

I like men.

ivan said...

Good.
I cary a sheep around my shoulders,wear basic peasant garb and was probably educated beyond my intellect.
Ivan meets Spenser's Faery Queene?
Did they teach you that at Ryerson Pyrotecnical Institute? Lord, the'd take anybody way back then.
Heh. Try to get into Ryerson today.
You need to have straight A's and a pedigree to match.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Oh....Bernita...you tease!!!

ROFLOL...I just noticed the last word and definition on your post...LOL How did I miss that before....It gives a whole new meaning to the New York City phrase..."Take a bite out of the Big Apple" ...oh, ha...I crack myself up!!!LOL

Bernita said...

Bonnie, I thought of all sorts of expressions ( presumeably innocent) when I saw that definition.
Like "howja like them apples."
Wicked.
No, Ivan, I went to a university long, long ago and far, far away from HiRye Tec.

ivan said...

Well, as an old professional student, I finally did get a sheepskin that did not smell, but it was a struggle.
The best thing about Ryerson is that what you only just had in mind five minutes ago could immediately be published in the Ryersonian (of which I was an editor--nepotism or what?). You didn't have to be all that good to get something in print to seven thousand readers-- and right away.
Then there was Ryerson's literary
magazine, The Fifth Page, where some of my stuff somehow got in.
Lord, I wish everybody could go to
60's Ryerson. Instant student loan.
Instant publishing. Instant local success among your peers. They spoiled us, each of us thinking we would be Balzacs in our later careers.
Well Fuddle-Duddle! I made the Newmarket Era!
Next career move? The East- Jesus Armpit.

...Sorry U.S. guys about this comparing of little mit to big U of T (Ottawa?.
My later move to University of California surprised me at the quality of its MFA program (Yes.)

Shesawriter said...

I bought this book called, Getting Into Character. It gives writers great tips that actors use to bring characters alive. I use it all the time when I find myself getting lazy. Telling that a character is a lot less work than SHOWING it. :-)

Tanya

ivan said...

I used interior monologue in my first novel.
Instructor said throw it away. Stay linear. Tell the story.

Went along with it, but then was accused of being a journalist, not novelist.
Oh well. That's what you get for falling in love with Faulkner's Sound and Fury and absolutely high on how he uses italics for the interior monologue.
But I had to throw it all away.
I had won a scholarship with that first book, so I wasn't going to argue with the prof.
Carve up our child. Sure.
Want to keep eating? Be the Paperback Writer in the Beatle's song...I can change this, I can change that...

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