Satire and the Great Laughter Debate


Tuesday, 2 pm - 4 pm 


S. Dickie

Course Description

Satire was a predominant mode in early modern literature and the focus of a complex critical and ethical debate. This course reads a range of satiric texts, from the well-known verse of Swift and Pope to obscurer topical pamphlets and the graphic satires of Hogarth and Rowlandson. In Fielding and Burney, we will study two novelists who extended the genre to narrative fiction. Alongside these primary texts, we will explore a wide range of theoretical and literary-historical contexts, including the value and limitations of generic categories; the history of eighteenth-century studies (especially the persistent use of “satire” as a label for recuperating long-scorned texts); changing interpretations of the ancient satirists; early-modern debates over the nature and acceptability of laughter; and metaphorical and literal connections between satire, public punishment and the infliction of pain. Also important will be class perspectives; the representation of deformity and disability (and recent developments in “Disability Studies”); the apparent misogyny of many texts; and aesthetic conventions such as scatology and the grotesque.

Course Reading List

  • Fielding, Joseph Andrews, ed. Goldberg (Norton)
  • Burney, Evelina, ed. Doody (Penguin)
  • Further readings are compiled as a course reader (CR).

Course Method of Evaluation and Course Requirements

  • Four short discussion-starters -- 20%
  • Essay Proposal and Annotated Bibliography -- 20%
  • Final Paper -- 45%
  • Participation -- 15%

Term: S-TERM (January 2023 to April 2023)
Date/Time: Tuesday / 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm
Location: Room JHB 718 (Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street)
Delivery: In-Person