Literary Satire assignment for March 26, 2013
Danver’s Peabody Institute Library
Benchmark: Edwin A. Abbott’s Flatland
Read 2nd title in the Literary Satire genre. It can be a classic or modern title listed on the back or something you determine meets the definition of satire.
Appeal to be read for March meeting: Focus on all the appeal factors, but really think about the tone.
Guide to Literary Terms: Satire
Satire – the use of humor and wit with a critical attitude, irony, sarcasm, or ridicule for exposing or denouncing the frailties and faults of mankind’s activities and institutions, such as folly, stupidity, or vice. This usually involves both moral judgment and a desire to help improve a custom, belief, or tradition.
The term is from the Latin satura, meaning “full” or “sated” and was derived from satis, meaning “enough” or “sufficient.”
Satire began with the early Greek poets when they were supposed to tax weaknesses and correct vice. As a distinct literary form, satire was the creation of the Romans and was subsequently present in many forms of medieval literature. In The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer used this technique for “The Miller’s Tale” and “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale.” During the Renaissance, satire was more often prose rather than poetry. The Golden Age of Satire in England was the early Eighteenth Century when Henry Fielding, Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, John Gay and others dominated British letters.
In the Twentieth Century, satire includes George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984 which satirized political situations and the status quo, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World which satirized utopian dreams.
see: lampoon, parody
Source: MAXnotes to Guide to Literary Terms, ©2000 Research and Education Association, Inc.. All Rights Reserved. Full copyright. (http://www.enotes.com/literary-terms/satire 12/21/12)
Contains very good examples of satire.
Suggestions for second titles:
Abrams, David. Fobbit. (2012) The military & combat.
Amis, Martin. Lionel Asbo: State of England. (2012) Modern Society & Celebrity culture.
Barry, Max. Company. (2006) Corporate life.
Buckley, Christopher. Thank You for Smoking. (1994) Tobacco Industry & Public Relations.
Fellowes, Julian. Snobs. (2005) Aristocracy, Social Classes & Actors.
Fountain, Ben. Billy Lynn’s Long Half-Time Walk. (2012) Modern warfare.
Kuhn, William M. Mrs. Queen Takes the Train. (2012) British monarchy & modern society.
Palahniuk, Chuck. Pygmy. (2009) American Xenophobia.
Southern, Terry. Candy. (1996) Attitudes towards sex.
Vonnegut, Kurt. God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater or, Pearls before Swine (1991) Insanity.
Austen, Jane. Northanger Abbey. (1818) Gothic Fiction & its popularity
Berger, Thomas. Little Big Man. (1964) American West; Treatment of Native Americans
Bulgakov, Mikhail. The Master and the Margarita. (1966) Russian society; corruption; cowardice
Gogol, Nicolai. Dead Souls. (1923) Russian Serfdom; Class systems; Greed
Goldman, William. The Princess Bride. (1973) Royalty & Romance
Heller, Joseph. Catch-22. (1961) War
Lewis, C.S. The Screwtape Letters. (1943) Christianity; Sin
Lewis, Sinclair. Main Street. (1920) Small Town America’s Values & Social structure
Orwell, George. Animal Farm. (1945) Totalitarianism
Swift, Jonathan. Gulliver’s Travels. (1726) Politics; Humanity’s foibles
Thackery, William Makepeace. Vanity Fair. (1847) Social structure
Trollope, Anthony. Barchester Towers. (1900) Victorian England & the Church of England.
Wharton, Edith. The Age of Innocence. (1920) Society’s control & structure
Literary Satire Minutes by Leane Ellis
March 26, 2013
Peabody Institute Library, Danvers, MA
Expect the ballot before the May 28 meeting.
Discussion on the Literary Satire Benchmark: Edwin A. Abbott’s Flatland.
1884—Contemporary satire about those who do not want to know the “truth.” Probably for an academic audience especially mathematical, SF, Literary, philosophical.
Satire can often be offensive to some parts of the audience (not intended audience); not for everyone—an acquired taste.
Voice=value judgments=candid, intellectual satire; situational empathy. The Square’s voice is both entertaining and off-putting.
Language/Style: formal and pedantic; puns (A. Square=square-shaped character), irony, chatty
Tone: moralizing, didactic, witty, fanciful, philosophical, clever, tongue-in-cheek, somewhat defensive
Frame: The fantasy world of Flatland uses the mathematical conceit to ponder the philosophical questions in the actual world of human existence. World building detailed and relys on understanding of geometry
Pace: Starts slow & then ending picks up
1st part: Elitist & Sexist society (social satire); nature vs. nurture; free will vs determinism; Irregulars (Eugenics) genetic engineering
Rigid hierarchies that limit opportunities of common man & relegate women to inferior subservient roles—especially lack or kind of education for women
Little tolerance for irregularity or lack of conformity = consuming irregular offspring like Swift
Worried about popular culture “dumbing down” the culture,
2nd part: 3rd, 4th, etc. dimensions=warns about too much complacency in sciences, in life
In 1884 science community was very self-satisfied with Newton etc.
Ask questions: What beliefs remain sacred? What else should we question?
Sarah: William Goldman’s The Princess Bride Political satire with absurd conclusion
Michelle: Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One
Tricia: Ben Fountain’s Billy Lynn’s Ling Half-Time Walk American perception of war heroes; class; football
Leane: David Abrams. Fobbit & William Kuhn’s Mrs. Queen Takes the Train.
Cindy: Julian Fellowes’ Snob.
Laura: Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides
Louise: M.T. Anderson’s Feed.
Mrs. Queen Takes the Train – William M. Kuhn
Appeal Factors: Character/Setting/Tone
In this engaging satire of royalty and class Queen Elizabeth, disguised in a skull-emblazoned hoodie, sneaks out of Buckingham Palace to escape her duties to travel by train to the decommissioned royal yacht Britannia. An unlikely group of royal attendants team up to find their missing monarch and shield her from both the press and MI5 and bring her back before her absence sets off a national scandal. This was a fast-paced, witty and ironic poke at British Royalty and our current celebrity society and social hierarchies. The supporting characters as well as Queen Elizabeth II are well-drawn and the relationships between characters seem real in this very imaginative and off beat story. The “Downton Abbey”-like look at royalty and staff will appeal to fans of this era, lovers of British everything, and reminded me of the appeal in Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland series and Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader. It will make you chuckle out loud.
Fobbit – David Abrams
Appeal Factors: Tone/Characters/Setting
At Foreward Operating Base Triumph (FOB), a combat-avoiding staff sergeant named Chance Gooding (FOBBIT) spends his time composing press releases that spin grim events into statements more palatable to the public while contending with a disgruntled Lt. Colonel and an incompetent Captain. This is a darkly-humorous, cynical, thought-provoking and gritty look at modern war and recent history by a 20-year Army veteran who served in Iraq in his first fast-paced and realistic novel. The vivid characters cover the human spectrum from poignant to bitter. The Army jargon may annoy some but it adds to the realism of the narrative which changes from character to character told in the 3rd POV. Abrams’ story’s larger themes include the battle for security on the field vs. the battle for the hearts & minds of the US public. The book may appeal to fans of M.A.S.H, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, and W.E.B. Griffin’s Brotherhood of War novels.
The Loved One – Evelyn Waugh
Appeal Factors: Tone/Characters
Dennis Barlow, an Englishman and poet, moves to Hollywood to reinvigorate his career only to find it flagging further as a result of a mute muse. Without other recourse, he takes a position at the pet funeral home Happier Hunting Grounds, which proves to be problematic for his fellow Englishmen, who find the profession repulsive and beneath them. Dennis’ friend and housemate, Sir Francis Hinsley, commits suicide after being deemed too old by Hollywood standards and thus terminated from his job at one of the big studios; it’s his death that leads Dennis to Whispering Glades, California’s preeminent funeral home. There he meets a young, beautiful cosmetician, Aimee, whose affections are also being fought for by Mr. Joyboy, the chief embalmer. Waugh’s approach is humorous, and the short novel is certainly readable, moving along at a quick pace. By all appearances it has a lot to say about cultural differences and the assumptions made by both sides about the other. It also criticizes Hollywood’s covetous nature of the young and beautiful, and the industry of death – funeral homes, etc. – which Waugh saw as dehumanizing those who have passed, turning souls into commodities.
Billy Lynn’s Long Half-Time Walk – Ben Fountain
Appeal Factors: Tone/Characters
A skirmish in the Iraq war involving Bravo company just happened to be recorded by an embedded journalist and later broadcast throughout America making the Bravos instant heroes. Nineteen year old Billy Lynn led the charge. Billy and the rest of the Bravos were brought home on a “Victory Tour.” They make several stops throughout the country culminating in the Thanksgiving Day Dallas Cowboys game. While the Bravos may be excited to be home sleeping in beds and making use of indoor plumbing, their meet and greet sessions are a chore. During the skirmish, one of their comrades was killed and another lost his legs. They are still processing the event for themselves and to have to share it with others is something most of them aren’t quite ready for. They are reluctant heroes who didn’t join the Army because they wanted to fight the war. Through Billy’s experiences at the Cowboys game, we see the divide between what is happening in the war and how people view it at home. Fountain satirizes the fervent support of the war by Americans and highlights their lack of conviction.
Billy is a compelling character who drew me into a story, I didn’t particularly see myself liking. He is a genuine character surrounded by some pretty ingenious people whose support for the troops only goes so far. Billy’s story is an abbreviated coming of age story. In a day we get a glimpse of how far he has come as a young man. We experience some of the struggles he faces and choices he must make.
Snobs – Jullian Fellows
Appeal Factors: Funny & Satirical Tone, Characters, and Narrative
Creator of the popular series Downton Abbey Julian Fellows’ novel follows the similar theme of the division of social classes. This is a story about Edith Lavery, an attractive young woman who marries the Earl of Broughtonand. The Earl lives among the highest of the British social classes and is wealthy, owning many estates. Edith marries the Earl for his social status and despite his unwavering love for her (he thanks her for every sexual encounter) Edith quickly becomes bored living the high life. Edith questions what she should do with her marriage and life, and soon finds herself walking away from her marriage to be with a handsome struggling actor. After leaving her husband hurt and depressed and destroying his families reputation Edith begins to realize that the grass is not always greener on the other side. Fellows has a wonderful way of pulling the reader into the characters and the story. The narration is from the perspective of Morant an actor/friend of Edith. This provides an interesting and unusual view of the flow of the plot and development of the characters. I would highly recommend this novel to any readers that are fans of British society or the Downton Abbey series.
The Naked Truth – Nielsen, Leslie and David Fisher
Appeal Factors: Pacing: Fast at first though it kind of drags after awhile when the joke starts to get old Characterizations: exaggerations of Hollywood types Story Line: spoof, character driven, nonsensical stuff, typical Hollywood goings on, such as divorces, drug problems, etc. Setting: Hollywood, studios, Detail: Tone: sarcastic, silly, pretend seriousness Language: a lot of puns
Actor Leslie Nielsen writes a very serious autobiography about his life as an actor, except that it’s entirely made up in this send up of celebrity memoirs. He worked with many famous directors such as Cecil B. Demille and won the Nobel Prize for Acting and he had to deal with Howdy Doody’s drinking problem.
The Virgin Suicides – Eugenides, Jeffrey
Appeal Factors: Pacing: Leisurely but fast in parts. Know in the beginning that all five of the Lisbon sisters kill themselves. Characterizations: not thoroughly realized as all (including the girls) are seen through the eyes of the nameless narrator; restrictive parents; mysterious teenage girls; overly helpful neighbors, comical secondary characters, such as Dominic Palazzolo; shallow secondary characters, such as Trip Fontaine; Lux is the only Lisbon sister to be given any real character development Story Line: satirical look at media and people obsessing over what they can’t answer; satirical look at religion (after Cecilia’s first suicide attempt, her father comments on the picture of the Virgin Mary that she is carrying, “We baptized her. We confirmed her, and now she believes this crap.”); discerning eye at high school, how people react to death; character driven Setting: 1970’s, Michigan Detail: intricate detail, “On the morning the last Lisbon daughter took her turn at suicide . . . the two paramedics arrived at the house knowing exactly where the knife drawer was, and the gas oven, and the beam in the basement from which it was possible to tie a rope.” Tone: sarcastic, macabre, haunting, funny (in a dark comedy kind of way), melancholy, atmospheric Language: lyrical, beautiful.
In 1970’s Michigan, a small town reacts when Cecelia Lisbon, the youngest of five sisters, commits suicide. The family becomes more reclusive, as media outlets try to analyse the situations, the local boys become obsessed, and the cemetery workers go on strike. As the local boys, narrating as adults, continue to ruminate the situation, the last four Lisbon sisters all commit suicide.