The Art of Satire

English 231, Fall 2013

Prof. Jack Lynch


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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 p.m.!).

E-mail: Jack.Lynch@rutgers.edu (the best way to reach me).


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:

This course meets the college's core curriculum requirement for literature.

Requirements

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 time.
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.
Attendance
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 date.
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:
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.
Accommodations
Of course I'll provide all necessary accommodations for properly documented disabilities. Get in touch with Disability Services for details on the procedures.
Readings
The following books are available from New Jersey Books and the Rutgers Bookstore:

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.

Grades
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.

Schedule of Class Meetings

Tues., 3 Sept.
Introduction: Satire, irony, comedy, parody, lampoon, invective, burlesque, travesty, jeremiad.

Ridentem Dicere Verum:
The Origins

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, Paraphrased.”
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 Flecknoe.
Thurs., 26 Sept.
Pope, Epistle to Arbuthnot; Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, “Verses Addressed to the Imitator of Horace.”

Rain on Your Wedding Day?
Irony

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 Modest Proposal.
Thurs., 10 Oct.
Ambrose Bierce, selections from The Devil's Dictionary; Stephen Colbert, selections from The Colbert Report (“Truthiness,” “Blackwashing,” “How 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 words.

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 1.
Tues., 22 Oct.
Gulliver's Travels, part 3. Online Quiz on Gulliver, parts 1 and 3.
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 from “Stuff White People Like.” Three Sample Theses for the Paper Due.

Satirical Worlds:
Utopias and Dystopias

Tues., 5 Nov.
Thomas More, Utopia, pp. 1–41.
Thurs., 7 Nov.
Utopia, pp. 41–85. Online Quiz on Utopia.
Tues., 12 Nov.
Gulliver's Travels, part 4.

Universal Darkness:
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 1–15.
Thurs., 21 Nov.
A Connecticut Yankee, chapters 16–30. Paper Due.
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 confused.
Thurs., 28 Nov.
No Class: Thanksgiving.
Tues., 3 Dec.
A Connecticut Yankee, chapters 31–44. Online Quiz on Connecticut Yankee.
Thurs., 5 Dec.
The Crying of Lot 49, chapters 1–3.
Tues., 10 Dec.
The Crying of Lot 49, chapters 4–6.