Satire and the satirist : a materialist reading of eighteenth-century satire

Doctoral Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This thesis presents an attempt to engage materialist literary analysis in a serious reconsideration of eighteenth-century satire as satire. In the process I see myself as challenging received notions of how the satire of the period is to be contextualized, as well as the way in which the category 'satire' has been constituted. I do not think it is possible to provide any reading of any satire today without initiating a reappraisal of the very form itself. Here I am attempting to integrate an ancient practice with new methodologies. This would seem to demand a perspective which is opposed to, and involves a critique of, not only the accepted institutional views of satire, but of aspects of the academic literary institution itself. Satire is, I believe, a term or category that should not be historicized and relativized out of existence. It has a significance and importance which is lost in attempts to make it a label of convenience: a convenient name that different literary cultures use to differentiate a particular form from the others available to them. In this thesis I will be focusing predominantly on Swift and Pope, who are not only the great satirists of this crucial period, but who are, arguably, the most subtle (Pope) and the most disturbing (Swift) of satirists who ever wrote.

Bibliography: pages 480-513.