Exploring texts from Aristophanes to the moderns, with special emphasis on the eighteenth century, Griffin uses a dozen figures -- Horace, Juvenal, Persius, Lucian, More, Rabelais, Donne, Dryden, Pope, Swift, Blake, and Byron -- as primary examples. Because satire often operates as a mode or procedure rather than as a genre, Griffin offers not a comprehensive theory but a set of critical perspectives. Some of his topics are traditional in satire criticism: the role of satire as moralist, the nature of satiric rhetoric, the impact of satire on the political order. Others are new: the problems of satire and closure, the pleasure it affords readers and writers, and the socioeconomic status of the satirist.
Griffin concludes that satire is problematic, open-ended, essayistic, and ambiguous in its relationship to history, uncertain in its political effect, resistant to formal closure, more inclined to ask questions than provide answers, and ambivalent about the pleasures it offers.
Contents: Preface. I. Introduction. II. Diatribe. III. Parody. IV. The Distorting Mirror. V. Conclusion. Notes. Brief Bibliography. Index.
Originally published in 1962.
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