Tag Archives: satire

Jon Stewart Resembled Jonathan Swift

Jon Stewart stepped down from “The Daily Show” just over a year ago. At the time, he was our Jonathan Swift and, like Swift, he was not afraid to satirize satire itself when it became too puffed up.

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Grendel in Paris

As with other mass killings, “Beowulf” has lessons for the Paris massacre. Defoe and Rabelais, meanwhile, give us insight in the targeted satirical journal “Charlie Hebdo.”

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Meditation upon a Broom (April Fool!)

Swift’s “Meditation on a Broomstick” could well have been an April Fool’s joke.

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Freedom (a.k.a. Irresponsibility)

Jonathan’s Franzen’s “Freedom” is written in the John Cheever-John Updike-Tom Wolfe-Don DeLillo tradition, an up-close look at American middle class culture. But it leaves out some of the heroic struggles that are going on.

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Lit and Our Impoverished Political Culture

I’ve been thinking about how shallow and dishonest political speech has become in recent years. Then again, maybe it’s always been like this and I’m just noticing it more. When politics enter the picture, it appears that people start becoming stupid. Outlandish claims and ridiculous reasoning are either (1) accepted as factual or (2) seen […]

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Laura Ingraham Is No Jonathan Swift

Since I wrote about Swiftian satire yesterday, I was interested when a current political satirist was contrasted with Swift in yesterday’s Washington Post. Laura Ingraham has a new book out which purports to be the secret diaries of Bo, the White House dog.  In his review Steven Levingston concludes that, while the book is sometimes […]

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And Universal Darkness Buries All

Yesterday I talked about irresponsible political commentators and politicians and how they reminded me of the scribblers that John Dryden was worried about in the 1680’s. In the 1740’s Alexander Pope was even more pessimistic about the threat they posed. In The Dunciad he imagines an inevitable cultural slide until “universal darkness buries all.” Harold […]

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Enough Already, Rush, Glenn, Shadwell!

Last week when I complained about Christopher Hitchens, I think I was reacting as much to the incessant chatter of pundits as to Hitchens himself. At present there appear to be non-stop voices competing with each other to see who can make the most outrageous claims or confrontational statements, whether on talk radio, cable television, […]

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Better Austen than Bronte on the Court

An interesting New York Times column by David Brooks has me doing some more thinking on Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan’s enjoyment of Pride and Prejudice.  Here is some of what he wrote: About a decade ago, one began to notice a profusion of Organization Kids at elite college campuses. These were bright students who […]

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The Damned Human Race

Last Wednesday was the 100th anniversary of Mark Twain’s death.  To mark the occasion, Ben Click, our enterprising department chair, set up a panel to discuss what Twain had to say about  “race, religion, politics, and the ‘damned human race.’”   On the panel were Peter Sagal, star of National Public Radio’s “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell […]

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Playing Cards in Rape of the Lock

The rules for ombre and how the hands are played in “Rape of the Lock.” Altogether brilliant.

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Bush, Obama, and Gulliver’s Travels

I return for one last time to Swift, who provides invaluable perspectives for understanding contemporary politics. Swift was a shrewd student of political dynamics. His satire is often an allegorical depiction of real life people and incidents, and if one knows one’s history, one can read parts of Gulliver’s Travels as a roman à clé, […]

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Can Satire Change Lives?

  For a website devoted to whether and how literature can change lives, satire presents a special case. That’s because satire seems to have changing lives as its goal. Because of this apparent agenda, it fell out of favor with the high culture crowd in the heyday of the New Criticism.  The New Critics, who […]

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Swift, Obama, and Idealism

Like many Americans, I was excited, inspired, and rendered hopeful by the election of Barack Obama as president last November. I felt that, at long last, we could accomplish great things in this country. I have also been thinking how I will respond when my high hopes run up against reality. At least I’m old […]

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