This chapter provides a broad perspective on verse satire throughout almost the entire time span of the collection. The chapter demonstrates how classical imitation persisted even to the very end of the period. It also demonstrates the extent of parallel developments in England and on the continent, with ancient Rome transmogrified into the Paris of Boileau and the London of Johnson, each with their own political and aesthetic bias. Satire in the period recalibrates the age-old satirical dichotomy of urban and rural, Juvenalian and Horatian, in new and surprising ways. The chapter ranges from continental Renaissance scholarship over the changes of formal verse satire in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries down to a little-known text by Jean-Baptiste Hugues Nelson Cottreau, a nominal imitation from 1808 of Samuel Johnson’s imitation of Juvenal. The chapter thus emphasises that despite the extensive changes satire underwent in the period, it was also characterised by certain thematic and formal continuities.
Value and indifference before and in Donne’s Metempsychosis
This chapter argues that the preoccupation with food and eating in formal verse satire signals a confusion, at once involuntary and strategic, of the valuable and the worthless, a confusion shaped by the concept of things indifferent (adiaphora). The satires of Horace and Juvenal show evidence of this confusion. Subject to imminent decay or consumption, food represents the instability of satire’s status as valuable literary property. John Donne’s poem Metempsychosis, while generically complex and not itself constructed on the formal model followed by Horace, Juvenal and the other Roman satirists, inherits from them a similar confusion about the relation between value and waste in poetic production. The Pythagorean framework of Metempsychosis derives largely from Ovid, but by way of Juvenal’s engagement with Pythagorean ideas in his fifteenth satire; this framework becomes in the poem a means of upsetting conventional expectations about where value is to be found, and how waste is distinguished from it.
Rachel Speght’s instructive use of satire in A Mouzell for Melastomus
In 1617, Rachel Speght, a nineteen-year-old clergyman's daughter, responded to a misogynist tract with a pamphlet entitled A Mouzel for Melastomas. What is significant about her riposte is that she was able to skilfully utilise satire, which is an integral component of her piece, to ridicule the author of the attack on women, while at the same time producing a polemic that crosses genres and challenges the conventions of la querelle des femmes. Hers is a co-ordinated response which applies satire surgically to address the scandal of the outrageous claims made about women and clears the way for and activates a biblical exegesis upon which she constructs a powerful validation of the worth of women. It is also a voice from the margins, from beyond canonical satire, speaking to the centre. Speght does not confine herself to the genre of religious apologetics; indeed, she transcends this to demonstrate clearly the efficacy of feminine authority. There is a further shift in genre as in the final section she inverts expectations by mischievously creating a conduct manual for men. This chapter will examine how Speght eschews a formulaic approach to genre, opting instead to leap over boundaries in the creation and formulation of her argument.
The number of political changes and the period of trouble that characterised the late eighteenth century contributed to nourish the representation of political events across Europe. Within this context, satirical prints became crucial to the understanding of national values, functioning as a mediator and as a link between the perception of national identities and their construction. This chapter investigates the modalities according to which this process of mediation occurred, manifested itself and was conceived. Printed satirical images are particularly representative of these patterns as they broadly circulated at national and international levels. These prints functioned, across Europe, as a visual platform embedding a multitude of views. First, particular attention is paid to the process of representation of the Self by European countries such as France and Great Britain, in order to identify what visual mechanisms made satire work as a cultural mediator. Second, the chapter discusses the comprehension of the Other that these images engendered and the impact that the visual sources had on the construction of the comprehension of the Other.
The intermediality of English satire, c. 1695–1750
Andrew Benjamin Bricker
This chapter examines the extensive intermediality of English satire by demonstrating the intimate links between the visual and the verbal in works from the early to mid-eighteenth century. In part, the focus is on the inherent visuality of even textual satires as material objects, including not only their cryptographic title pages and suggestive mise-en-page, but also the graphic qualities of writing and typography itself. This chapter also discusses how words become images and how textual descriptions entail readerly visualisations through ‘weak ekphrasis’, i.e., the use of gradual descriptions that encourage readers to visualise, often to satiric effect, that which an author, speaker or narrator has left ambiguous. Finally, the chapter studies the illustrations that accompanied – but sometimes succeeded and even supplanted – verbal satires in a process of ‘re-semanticisation’, i.e., the way a satiric object, whether primarily textual, such as a poem, or primarily visual, such as a print, was subjected to dialectical cycles of readerly re-interpretation. Such works of satire are fundamentally intermedial (or even hypermedial); they straddle the boundaries between the verbal and the visual by both actively occluding and yet implicitly drawing attention to the material forms in which they circulate. In this regard, the intermingling of text and image is central to eighteenth-century satire, which elicited from readers simultaneous and successive forms of visual and verbal literacy, producing a cognitive economy essential to understanding the ambiguity that typifies works from this period.
In the final chapter on The Tretis of the Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo, the widow’s response is shown to be the culminating speech in the text. Her discourse is delivered in the form of a medieval sermon. As a preacher, the widow is shown not to parody the genre nor use it ironically; rather, she engages the form as a suitable apparatus for delivering her exposition of a ‘venerean’ morality. This morality plays off of anti-feminist discourses and conduct literature. But, the widow’s sermon complicates any reading of the text as simply an embodiment of anti-feminist discourse; William Dunbar integrates various allusions to allegorical representations of Venus, especially as found in other Scottish poems, such as Dunbar’s The Goldyn Targe and Henryson’s The Testament of Cresseid, in order to invest her discourse with a deep and pervasive ambivalence. The narrative grotesque shows the ways in which these influences and discourses are ligatured together in order to question modes of authority, rhetoric, and generic boundaries.
The conclusion draws together several correspondences and divergences between The Palyce of Honour and The Tretis of the Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo. Textual hybridisation and transfiguration are noted as key themes; concepts of authenticity, veracity, and eloquence in poetic expression are also discussed in their various contexts in the two texts. This brief collation is presented as locus for further applications of the narrative grotesque in medieval texts. The literary complaint and animal allegories, specifically avian, are both touched on as possible venues for this strategy to be used.
In this chapter the first response, delivered by the ‘first wife’, is examined in detail. Her response is shown initially to inhere with the conventional demande d’amour, despite veering towards sexual innuendo and humour. Her fantasy of free love and female sovereignty is compared to medieval conduct literature, especially the Scottish poem The Thewis off Gud Women. Her response, however, abruptly shifts tone, subject matter, and form in order to deliver an excoriating flyting against her husband. The Scottish poetic invective form depends on a vivid and horrifying vocabulary of abuse in order to deride opponents. The wife ably employs this in her attack on her husband, which reveals explicitly the sexual and emotional abuse to which she is subject. Her fluid discourse once again shifts as she casts herself as manipulating her husband with sexual favours in exchange for luxury material items. The complex and uncomfortable tone and subject matter created by the trio of themes is explicated by the narrative grotesque: William Dunbar destroys conventional ‘languages of love’ and perceptions about eloquent emotional expression and replaces them with discourses that meld horror and humour. This displacement of one pole of expression for another, however, is shown to be equally problematic in terms of subjectivity, authenticity, and veracity.
In the final chapter on The Palyce of Honour the narrative strands are brought together by examining the ways in which Gavin Douglas weaves together pagan allegory with Christianity. The poem is demonstrated to create multiple intersecting hierarchies that highlight Douglas’s humanist-complected understanding of poetics as a mode of divine illumination. The figure of Venus in medieval cosmology and astrology is especially important to this phase of the discussion. Meanwhile, the motifs of are developed from their introduction in the previous chapter. Lastly, Douglas the poet is integrated as contributing yet another subjectivity through his dedication to James IV of Scotland which brings the Scottish king into the hierarchies discovered by the dreamer-narrator.
This chapter builds on the previous one by focusing more closely on the temporal dissonance and thus multiple subjectivities created between the two protagonists: Douglas the dreamer and Douglas the narrator. It is shown that their voices create an affective antinomy that appears most vividly at moments of textual rupture and fusion. This narrative grotesque reveals Gavin Douglas’s self-conscious exploration of the role of the poet and of poetics in society; a pursuit greatly influenced by the precepts of Italian humanism. This concern is in part demonstrated through the recurring motifs of harmony and transfiguration. Furthermore, his destruction of medieval dream vision conventions is shown through contrastive comparisons with Chaucer’s The Parliament of Fowls and The House of Fame. The inset literary complaint is also demonstrated to multiply this destructive effect by reimagining the purpose and form of the complaint as a discourse about love.