The Art of Satire
English 231, Fall 2013
Go directly to:
September — October
— November — December
Office: (973) 353-5204; 531 Hill Hall.
Hours: Tuesday and Thursday, 3:00–4:00,
and by appointment (appointments are best).
Home: (609) 882-4642 (before 10:00
Jack.Lynch@rutgers.edu (the best way to
Course Description and Goals
This course introduces students to the theory and practice of
satire in verse and prose from Horace and Juvenal through
Boondocks and The Daily Show, with
stops along the way at Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, and Mark
Twain. Much of the course focuses on the greatest age of English
satire, the Restoration and eighteenth century, though a fair
amount of contemporary material from popular culture helps to
illustrate the way satire works.
By semester's end, students should:
- understand something of the long history of literary satire;
- be able to read satirical texts insightfully, understanding
the dynamics of critique and irony;
- be able to speak and write with precision, using a critical
vocabulary including satire, parody,
irony, lampoon, and comedy; and
- understand and be prepared to discuss contemporary satire
with increased sophistication.
This course meets the college's core curriculum requirement
- Online Quizzes
- You'll have to take regular
short quizzes on Blackboard to show you're keeping up with the
reading. You'll have fifteen minutes to answer three
multiple-choice questions about the most recent readings. All
questions will be straightforward factual questions about the
readings themselves — nothing about the authors, the
historical contexts, and so on. If you've read the book, the
quizzes should be easy. Each quiz will be available at
least one full week before the due date, and will be open
until the starting time of the class period on which they're due.
You can do them at any time in that week, but each quiz must be
completed in one session of no more than fifteen minutes; you
can't start and stop. You may not consult the readings
or cooperate with other students during a quiz. There are no
make-up quizzes, so be sure to budget your
- Written Assignments
- There will be one argumentative paper of around 2,000 words
(eight pages). There are also two short written exercises, all of
which will be explained in class as they get closer. Everything
should be typed and submitted in hard copy. My (still-incomplete)
guide to my expectations
on English papers is available online. A significant part of
your grade will depend on your writing skills; even though this
class is open to everyone, you might reconsider taking a
literature class if you haven't yet taken, or at least started
taking, English Composition 101.
- Final Exam
- There will be a short final exam, featuring identification,
close reading, and short essays. I'll discuss this in class as
the end of the semester approaches.
- University students are grownups; I understand that life
sometimes gets busy. Almost any excuse, therefore, given in
advance (in person, by phone, or by E-mail), will receive my
blessing. Absences not excused in advance will be frowned upon,
and your final grade will be lowered by half a grade (A
to B+, B+ to B, and so on) for each unexcused absence. Students
will initial an attendance sheet every class. (Multiple copies of
the sheet will be going around; you need to mark only one of
them.) The same policy applies to late assignments: I'll grant
extensions, but only if you talk to me before the due
- Class Participation
- Even though the class is large, regular and active class
participation is essential. I've worked to keep the readings
manageable and affordable, but you have to hold up your end of
the bargain by doing the readings every day and participating in
the discussions. I also expect the following in all classes:
- On-time arrival. A few minutes into the class I'll collect
the attendance sheets; late arrivals won't be able to sign in,
and will be counted as absent.
- Electronic devices of whatever sort — laptops, tablets,
e-books, and so on — can be used only for class-related
purposes. No Facebook, no e-mailing, no nothin' else.
- No texting, ever. (This does not constitute cruel
and unusual punishment under the U.S. Constitution or the Geneva
Conventions. I checked.)
- No disruptive talking during class.
- Plagiarism and Academic Integrity
- It should go without saying, but all work in this
class must be your own. Students are responsible for knowing and
abiding by the Rutgers
Academic Integrity Policy. I used to be much more laid back
about this, but no longer: I will report every
violation. If you have even an inkling of a doubt about what's
legitimate or how to cite something, see me before
handing in the paper.
- Of course I'll provide all necessary accommodations for
properly documented disabilities. Get in touch with Disability
Services for details on the procedures.
- The following books are available from New Jersey Books and
the Rutgers Bookstore:
- Thomas More, Utopia (Penguin), ISBN:
- Desiderius Erasmus, The Praise of Folly
(Penguin), ISBN: 978-0140446081;
- Jonathan Swift, Gulliverís Travels (Penguin),
- Voltaire, Candide (Hackett), ISBN:
- Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's
Court (Modern Library), ISBN: 978-0375757808;
- Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49
(HarperCollins), ISBN: 978-0060913076.
I understand that books are expensive, and have chosen the
most affordable reliable edition of each work. Classroom
discussion is easier if we all use the same editions, but if you
own the works in other editions, or if you can get cheap
secondhand copies, you neednít buy new ones.
The remainder of the readings are available online, either
linked to the syllabus or through Blackboard.
- This breakdown shows the starting point for my grading:
I don't believe in penalizing students for not being proficient
in writing English papers before they've had an English class, so
I'll evaluate your performance over the course of the whole
semester before I submit a final grade. If an early lapse is
compensated for by better performance later in the semester, I'm
happy to ignore a bad grade on an assignment. My usual approach
is to examine all the marks and to ask what is the highest grade
I can give in good conscience. After I finish wrestling with my
conscience, though, grades are final, and I'll change a
grade only if I made an error in calculation. If you're concerned
about your performance, talk to me before you hand
something in, not after you get the grade. I'm always happy to
look at provisional theses, rough drafts, and so on.
- Online Quizzes: 3% × 5 = 15%
- Written exercises: 10% × 2 = 20%
- Paper: 30%
- Exam: 25%
- Participation: 10%
Schedule of Class Meetings
- Tues., 3 Sept.
- Introduction: Satire, irony, comedy, parody,
lampoon, invective, burlesque, travesty, jeremiad.
Ridentem Dicere Verum:
- Thurs., 5 Sept.
- Horace, Satires 1.1, 2.1, and 2.2.
- Tues., 10 Sept.
- Juvenal, Satires 3, 6, and 10.
- Thurs., 12 Sept.
- Alexander Pope, “The
First Satire of the Second Book of Horace, Imitated,” and
“The Second Satire of the Second Book of Horace,
- Tues., 17 Sept.
- Samuel Johnson, London.
Who Breaks a Butterfly upon a Wheel?
Lampoon and Invective
- Thurs., 19 Sept.
- John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, “A
Satyr on Charles II.” Exercise:
Produce your own imitation of (part of) a satire by Horace or
Juvenal in about 500 words. Rhyme and meter are optional.
- Tues., 24 Sept.
- Dryden, Mac
- Thurs., 26 Sept.
- Pope, Epistle
to Arbuthnot; Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, “Verses
Addressed to the Imitator of Horace.”
Rain on Your Wedding Day?
- Tues., 1 Oct.
- Desiderius Erasmus, The Praise of Folly.
- Thurs., 3 Oct.
- The Praise of Folly (continued). Online
Quiz on The Praise of Folly.
- Tues., 8 Oct.
- Swift, A
- Thurs., 10 Oct.
- Ambrose Bierce, selections from The
Devil's Dictionary; Stephen Colbert, selections from
The Colbert Report (“Truthiness,”
to Ruin Same-Sex Marriages,” “Government
Shutdown's One-Week Anniversary”).
Exercise: Produce your own “modest
proposal” on the topic of your choice in about 500
The Best of All Possible Worlds:
Social and Political Satire
- Tues., 15 Oct.
- Rochester, “Signor
Dildo”; Jonathan Swift, “The
Lady's Dressing Room.”
- Thurs., 17 Oct.
- Swift, Gulliver's Travels, part
- Tues., 22 Oct.
- Gulliver's Travels, part
3. Online Quiz on Gulliver, parts 1 and
- Thurs., 24 Oct.
- Voltaire, Candide, chapters 1–16.
- Tues., 29 Oct.
- Candide, chapters 17–30. Online
Quiz on Candide.
- Thurs., 31 Oct.
- Aaron McGruder, “The
S-Word” from The Boondocks; selections
White People Like.” Three Sample Theses for the
Utopias and Dystopias
- Tues., 5 Nov.
- Thomas More, Utopia, pp. 1–41.
- Thurs., 7 Nov.
- Utopia, pp. 41–85. Online Quiz on
- Tues., 12 Nov.
- Gulliver's Travels, part
Satire as Apocalypse
- Thurs., 14 Nov.
- Rochester, A
Satyr against Reason and Mankind.
- Tues., 19 Nov.
- Mark Twain, A
Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, chapters
- Thurs., 21 Nov.
- A Connecticut Yankee, chapters 16–30.
- Tues., 26 Nov.
- No Class: I'll be away. In the rest of your
classes it's a Thursday schedule. Try not to be too
- Thurs., 28 Nov.
- No Class: Thanksgiving.
- Tues., 3 Dec.
- A Connecticut Yankee, chapters 31–44.
Online Quiz on Connecticut
- Thurs., 5 Dec.
- The Crying of Lot 49, chapters 1–3.
- Tues., 10 Dec.
- The Crying of Lot 49, chapters 4–6.