[return to main senryu index]

Senryu: Satire
From: "thedifferentother" <thedifferentother@y...>
To: <WHCsenryu@yahoogroups.com>
Sent: Friday, August 08, 2003 3:45 PM
Subject: [WHCsenryu] satire

My question is about satire, and it seems like an issue that came up several times and might have something to do with cruelty.
In the Western tradition (see Jonathan Swift for my favorite example) satire is harsh and it sometimes is not funny, at least not at surface level (doesn't make you laugh until it hurts you) but it still is satire. A wasp sting. And the point of satire is to expose the folly and weaknesses of human nature, something all of us in this list have heard before. ;)
This exposition, if honest, can be very cruel, or let's say extremely unpleasant. Again, it stings you before it makes you laugh. Not always, but it's not uncommon at all. The classic "A Modest Proposal" proposes cannibalizing poor infants so they don't become a burden on the state, and it was so straightforward (though obviously ironic) that many people didn't get the joke and thought Swift really meant it.
Satire can produce this effect. My tears don't usually roll all the time while reading satire --which is actually very different from sit com perpetual one liners or newspaper political jokes. Satire is not (simply) jokes. Satire is very social, very engaged, and like a doctor it operates without fear or remorse, even without anaesthesia. (OK, a cliche image, but picturesque). Very dark humor, for instance, does not always make us laugh either; it's actually quite uncomfortable. Once you can accept what's being proposed in those hard terms --the folly of humanity-- then you might laugh. Or change. Or go on to the page.
So, could satire in our senryu be defined close to the Western definition of this genre? Should it always make us laugh, or can it be harsh?
All this is not so much an affirmation or attempt to define, but rather a little skecth of what I think satire MIGHT be. Perhaps I'm missing the point. I hope someone has got to this sentence and has thought already of a reply.


From: <jstrickland35@c...>
Date: Fri Aug 8, 2003 3:06 pm
Subject: Re: [WHCsenryu] satire

There are basically 2 types of satire--both stemming from Roman times. One is based on works of the writer Horace. It is thus called 'Horatian', and it tends to be gentle, friendly. The kind we can identify with, but don[t feel all bent out of shape after reading. The other type is based on works of Juvenal, and is thus called 'Juvenalian'. It is bitter, biting, sarcastic--the hurtful kind talked about below and used in Swift's 'A Modest Proposal.'

Hope this helps.
Johnye Strickland

[return to main senryu index]