The Difference Satire Makes: Rhetoric and Reading from Jonson to Byron

The Difference Satire Makes: Rhetoric and Reading from Jonson to Byron

The Difference Satire Makes: Rhetoric and Reading from Jonson to Byron

The Difference Satire Makes: Rhetoric and Reading from Jonson to Byron


Offering both the first major revision of satiric rhetoric in decades and a critical account of the modern history of satire criticism, Fredric V. Bogel maintains that the central structure of the satiric mode has been misunderstood. Devoting attention to Augustan satiric texts and other examples of satire -- from writings by Ben Jonson and Lord Byron to recent performance art -- Bogel finds a complicated interaction between identification and distance, intimacy and repudiation.

Drawing on anthropological insights and the writings of Kenneth Burke, Bogel articulates a rigorous, richly developed theory of satire. While accepting the view that the mode is built on the tension between satirist and satiric object, he asserts that an equally crucial relationship between the two is that of intimacy and identification; satire does not merely register a difference and proceed to attack in light of that difference. Rather, it must establish or produce difference.

The book provides fresh analyses of eighteenth-century texts by Jonathan Swift, John Gay, Alexander Pope, Henry Fielding, and others. Bogel believes that the obsessive play between identification and distance and the fascination with imitation, parody, and mimicry which mark eighteenth-century satire are part of a larger cultural phenomenon in the Augustan era -- a questioning of the very status of the category and of categorical distinctness and opposition.


This book is both a study of eighteenth-century satire and an attempt to illuminate the satiric mode as a whole. In consequence, though I devote considerable attention to Swift, Gay, Pope, Fielding, and other Augustan writers, I have included chapters on Jonson and Byron and explored a range of twentieth-century works—poems, novels, performance art—as well. I have, of course, tried to respect the particulars of individual texts and periods as these inflect what I contend is a single, complex satiric structure.

My account of that structure both depends upon and differs from the tradition of satire criticism from Dryden to the present. In an effort to describe the most significant contributions and the most debilitating limitations of that tradition, especially of its twentieth-century forms, I have devoted a good deal of the first chapter to a critical account of the assumptions underlying the New Critical resuscitation of satire at midcentury, and the contemporary and related formulation of a particular notion of eighteenth-century literature and culture. While critique and revision can rarely be strictly separated, the first chapter focuses on the limitations of traditional theory of satire and the second chapter attempts to articulate a more adequate theory. Because most traditional theory takes us a certain distance but no further, I have relied, in developing the conceptual bases of this study, on the work of theorists by no means identified exclusively with the study of satire, or even of literature itself: Mary Douglas, René Girard, Kenneth Burke, and others.

My final chapter situates Augustan satire in the larger intellectual context of the eighteenth century—in particular, its profound, wide-ranging, and multiform critique of the idea of categorial distinctness. To this end, the chapter treats several works with distinctly satiric dimensions (An Essay on Criticism . . .

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