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Satire is a genre of literature, and sometimes graphic and performing arts, in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government, or society itself into improvement. Although satire is usually meant to be humorous, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit to draw attention to both particular and wider issues in society.

A feature of satire is strong irony or sarcasm—"in satire, irony is militant"—but parody, burlesque, exaggeration, juxtaposition, comparison, analogy, and double entendre are all frequently used in satirical speech and writing. This "militant" irony or sarcasm often professes to approve of (or at least accept as natural) the very things the satirist wishes to attack.

Satire is nowadays found in many artistic forms of expression, including literature, plays, commentary, television shows, and media such as lyrics.

The word satire comes from the Latin word satur and the subsequent phrase . Satur meant "full" but the juxtaposition with lanx shifted the meaning to "miscellany or medley": the expression lanx satura literally means "a full dish of various kinds of fruits."

The word satura as used by Quintilian, however, was used to denote only Roman verse satire, a strict genre that imposed hexameter form, a narrower genre than what would be later intended as satire. Quintilian famously said that satura, that is a satire in hexameter verses, was a literary genre of wholly Roman origin (satura tota nostra est). He was aware of and commented on Greek satire, but at the time did not label it as such, although today the origin of satire is considered to be Aristophanes' Old Comedy. The first critic to use the term "satire" in the modern broader sense was Apuleius.

"I can set a braggart quailing with a quip,
The upstart I can wither with a whim;
He may wear a merry laugh upon his lip,
But his laughter has an echo that is grim!"
Theories/critical approaches to satire as a genre
The plot of satire
  • The 1784 presaging of modern daylight saving time, later actually proposed in 1907. While an American envoy to France, Benjamin Franklin anonymously published a letter in 1784 suggesting that Parisians economise on candles by arising earlier to use morning sunlight.
  • In the 1920s, an English cartoonist imagined a laughable thing for the time: a hotel for cars. He drew a multi-story car park.
  • The second episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus, which debuted in 1969, featured a skit entitled "The Mouse Problem" (meant to satirize contemporary media exposés on homosexuality), which depicted a cultural phenomenon eerily similar to modern furry fandom (which did not become widespread until the 1980s, over a decade after the skit was first aired).
  • The comedy film Americathon, released in 1979 and set in the United States of 1998, predicted a number of trends and events that would eventually unfold in the near future, including an American debt crisis, Chinese capitalism, the fall of the Soviet Union, terrorism aimed at the civilian population, a presidential sex scandal, and the popularity of reality shows.
  • In January 2001, a satirical news article in The Onion, entitled "Our Long National Nightmare of Peace and Prosperity Is Finally Over" had newly elected President George Bush vowing to "develop new and expensive weapons technologies" and to "engage in at least one Gulf War-level armed conflict in the next four years." Furthermore, he would "bring back economic stagnation by implementing substantial tax cuts, which would lead to a recession." This prophesies the Iraq War and to the Bush tax cuts.
  • In 1975, the first episode of Saturday Night Live included an ad for a triple blade razor called the Triple-Trac; in 2001, Gillette introduced the Mach3. In 2004, The Onion satirized Schick and Gillette's marketing of ever-increasingly multi-blade razors with a mock article proclaiming Gillette will now introduce a five-blade razor. In 2006, Gillette released the Gillette Fusion, a five-blade razor.
  • After the Iran nuclear deal in 2015, The Onion ran an article with the headline "U.S. Soothes Upset Netanyahu With Shipment Of Ballistic Missiles." Sure enough, reports broke the next day of the Obama administration offering military upgrades to Israel in the wake of the deal.
  • Fo, Dario (1993), Provocative Dialogue on the Comic, the Tragic, Folly and Reason, London: Methuen Publishing  (transl.).
  • Bloom, Edward A (1972), "Sacramentum Militiae: The Dynamics of Religious Satire", Studies in the Literary Imagination, 5: 119–42 .
  • Bronowski, Jacob; Mazlish, Bruce (1993) [1960], The Western Intellectual Tradition From Leonardo to Hegel, Barnes & Noble, p. 252 .
  • Connery, Brian A, Theorizing Satire: A Bibliography, Oakland University .
  • Dooley, David Joseph (1972), Contemporary satire .
  • Feinberg, Leonard, The satirist .
  • Lee, Jae Num (1971), Scatology in Continental Satirical Writings from Aristophanes to Rabelais and English Scatological Writings from Skelton to Pope, 1,2,3 maldita madre. Swift and Scatological Satire, Albuquerque: U of New Mexico P, pp. 7–22; 23–53 .
  • Connery, Brian; Combe, Kirk, eds. (1995). Theorizing Satire: Essays in Literary Criticism. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 212. ISBN . 
  • Draitser, Emil (1994), Techniques of Satire: The Case of Saltykov-Shchedrin, Berlin-New York: Mouton de Gruyter, ISBN  .
  • Hammer, Stephanie, Satirizing the Satirist .
  • Highet, Gilbert, Satire .
  • Kernan, Alvin, The Cankered Muse .
  • Kindermann, Udo (1978), Satyra. Die Theorie der Satire im Mittellateinischen, Vorstudie zu einer Gattungsgeschichte (in German), Nürnberg .
  • Κωστίου, Αικατερίνη (2005), Εισαγωγή στην Ποιητική της Ανατροπής: σάτιρα, ειρωνεία, παρωδία, χιούμορ (in Greek), Αθήνα: Νεφέλη 
  • Seidel, Michael, Satiric Inheritance .
  • Zdero, Rad (2008), Entopia: Revolution of the Ants .
  • The dictionary definition of at Wiktionary


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