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Unit information: Satire in 2015/16

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Unit name Satire
Unit code ENGL20022
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. John McTague
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit examines the evolution of satire, beginning in the Classical period (with Juvenal and Horace), moving through Restoration satire, spending time on the 'Augustans', and finishing in the twenty-first century. We will be especially concerned with the question of interventionism: does the satirist believe that they can change the world by attacking folly, or is ‘true’ satire laughter in the dark? What are the motivations and justifications for writing satire, and where do we draw the line between instruction and rage, if such a line is to be drawn? We will also examine the satirical ‘voice’, and consider the kinds of relationship that the satirist establishes with his or her readers—ones that range from conspiracy to aggression. Finally, the unit will explore texts where satirists turn on their fellow authors to produce that cruellest form of all: parody.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have

(1) developed a detailed knowledge and critical understanding of satire’s development as a form, its relationship to its readers, its cultural context and impact, and the works of some of its major practitioners;

(2) in-depth knowledge of some of the critical approaches that have been taken to satire (this is a field recently re-invigorated by the Cambridge Swift Project);

(3) demonstrated the ability to analyse and evaluate differing critical accounts of the primary literature;

(4) demonstrated the ability to identify and evaluate pertinent evidence in order to illustrate/demonstrate a cogent argument.

(5) strengthened their skills in argumentation and academic writing.

Teaching Information

1 x 2-hour seminar per week.

Assessment Information

1 essay of 2,000 words (40%) and 1 essay of 3,000 words (60%)

Reading and References

  • John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, Selected Poems ed. by Paul Davis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013)
  • Jonathan Swift, Major Works, ed. by Angus Ross and David Woolley (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003)
  • John Gay, The Beggar’s Opera, ed. by Vivien Jones and David Lindley (London: A&C Black, 2010)
  • Philip Roth, Our Gang (Starring Tricky and his Friends) (London: Vintage, 1971)
  • Nicholas Hudson and Aaron Santesso (eds.), Swift’s Travels: Eighteenth-Century British Satire and its Legacy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008
  • David Nokes, Raillery and Rage: a Study of Eighteenth-Century Satire (Brighton : Harvester, 1987)