Young People Have no Respect for Authority Nowadays via Flickr, by Alexandre Dulaunoy

Today’s Focus:

  1. When is it okay to fight back against authority?
  2. Truthiness
  3. Jonathan Swift’s a Modest Proposal
  4. A few more examples of satire
  5. Preparing your own satires for a Salon (basically, a kind of fancy party popular among the French aristocracy. Ours will occur next week. Please bring in a powdered wig and an ornate dress/waistcoat)

Our next major focus is the French Revolution. To understand more about the divisions in French society, we will begin by considering the relationship between authorities and their subordinates.

First, consider the following questions:

  • How do you typically respond to unfair treatment from an authority figure?
  • When is it okay to “fight back” against the authority? For example, what would it take for you to stand up against a teacher in class, or against an administrator in the halls?
  • What techniques do you use to “fight back” against authority when direct confrontation is too dangerous? (sarcasm, perhaps?)

We will dedicate the rest of our day to satire. My favourite definition of satire comes from John Dryden, who wrote that satire is “the amendment of vice by correction,” or the attempt to change “the bad” by pointing out what makes it so wrong. It is one of the oldest–and most powerful–methods of fighting back against authority. Traditionally, satirists use humour to make their point, so we should probably look at an example…truthiness.

Read the excerpt from the Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift. You will find this in your textbook. In your notes explain:

  • the literal argument in Swift’s piece
  • the ridiculous statements he makes that indicate that the Modest Proposal should not be taken literally (note that the ridiculous statements in satire tend to escalate)
  • the “error” and the authority Swift is satirizing

Finally, I want you to write a few examples of satire on your own. You need to identify an “error” and use humour to demonstrate the error. I’d like you to do this by using a dictionary style entry in keeping with those in the Doubter’s Companion.

Some Guidelines:

  1. Choose something you think is ridiculous. Whatever your choice, make sure it has some connection to an authority, but do not choose someone we know personally. We will collect a few ideas on the side board.
  2. Write a 1/2 -1 page satire of the ridiculous idea/issue/policy/person you have chosen. Remember that the literal meaning of your piece must differ from your real meaning (just write sarcastically, and you will be on the right track). This video to help you understand how to write satire: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuvjDK3mpA0
  3. Can’t think of a topic? Feel free to satirize Louis XIV’s extravagant home at Versailles. Before you do so, it might help you to briefly consult the text so you understand more about the life of commoners in pre-Revolutionary France. This video will give you a better understanding of Louis’ not-so-humble abode: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=852eroBwDrA

 

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