December 23, 2012

ONE OF THE MAIN REASONS THAT NOT ONLY IS ALL COMEDY CONSERVATIVE...:

Recollecting Laughter: On the Cultural Value of Satire (Daniel McInerny, 12/21/12, Imaginative Conservative)

Have we, as a culture, lost our ability to appreciate satire?

The question occurred to me recently as I was reading Gordon Wood's Revolutionary Characters, picked up on a Thanksgiving trip to Colonial Williamsburg. In the concluding chapter of the book, Wood remarks upon the prevalence of satire in the literature of the revolutionary writers, and in doing so articulates nicely the social character of satire:
"Satire as a literary device depends upon a comprehending and homogeneous audience with commonly understood standards of rightness and reasonableness. Since the satirist can expose to instantaneous contempt only what is readily condemned by the opinion of his readers, he must necessarily be on intimate terms with them and count on their sharing his tastes and viewpoint" (emphasis added).

Eighty years ago, when Evelyn Waugh began publishing his early satiric novels--Decline and Fall, Vile Bodies, Black Mischief, A Handful of Dust, Scoop--he could count on a fair slice of his popular audience sharing the tastes and viewpoint that inspired his literary invective. Of course, Waugh disavowed the suggestion that his novels were satires. Satire, he claimed, in agreement with Gordon Wood, presupposes a shared moral ethos, and in Waugh's opinion, no such ethos existed in the West of the early 20th century.

...but America, the world's most conformist culture, is uniquely satirical.

Posted by at December 23, 2012 8:45 AM
  

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