The nature of satire: Essentialism, gender, and purpose



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There is a lack of recognized satire written by women in the English satirical canon. In this thesis, I argue that this dearth does not stem from an absence of women capable of producing cogent, effective satire, but from the conflicting stereotypes of women and characterizations of satire as a genre that is aggressive, humorous, and intellectually critical. Through a framework of feminist comparativism, I trace out the prevailing historical and literary characterizations of women and satire and use a close reading of Aphra Behn and Mary Wortley Montagu to demonstrate successful examples of women's satire and the social adversity they encountered. Finally, I empirically analyze a contemporary example of satire produced by men and women on the comedy news program The Daily Show. I found that even 21st century iterations of satire perpetuate gendered expectations of humor and satire. I conclude with the conviction that additional research on the intersections of gender and satire is needed, given the current popular re-invigoration of satire and the strides being made by women in comedy more broadly.

This thesis won 2nd Place in the Texas Tech University Outstanding Thesis and Dissertation Award, Social Sciences, 2016.



Satire, Gender