Menippean satire  

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Menippean satire is a term broadly used to refer to prose satires that are rhapsodic in nature, combining many different targets of ridicule into a fragmented satiric narrative similar to a novel. The term is used by classical grammarians and by philologists mostly to refer to satires in prose (cf. the verse Satires of Juvenal and his imitators).

Menippean satire moves rapidly between styles and points of view. Such satires deal less with human characters than with the single-minded mental attitudes, or "humours", that they represent: the pedant, the braggart, the bigot, the miser, the quack, the seducer, etc. Critic Northrop Frye observed,

The novelist sees evil and folly as social diseases, but the Menippean satirist sees them as diseases of the intellect […]

He illustrated this distinction by positing Squire Western (from Tom Jones) as a character rooted in novelistic realism, but the tutors Thwackum and Square as figures of Menippean satire.



The form is named after the Greek cynic Menippus. His works, now lost, influenced the works of Lucian and Marcus Terentius Varro; such satires are sometimes also termed Varronian satire.

Paul Salzman, taking Menippean satire as a genre as "rather ill-defined", describes it as a mixture of allegory, picaresque narrative and satirical commentary. Frye found the term "cumbersome and in modern terms rather misleading", and proposed as replacement anatomy (taken from Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy). In his theory of prose fiction it occupies the fourth place with the novel, romance and confession.

Classical tradition

Varro's own 150 books of Menippean satires survive only through quotations. The genre continued with Seneca the Younger, whose Apocolocyntosis, or "Pumpkinification," is the only near-complete classical Menippean satire to survive. The Menippean tradition is later evident in of Petronius' Satyricon, especially in the banquet scene "Cena Trimalchionis," which combines epic, tragedy, and philosophy with verse and prose. In Apuleius' Golden Ass, the form is combined with the comic novel.

Later examples

Contemporary scholars including Frye classify the following works as Menippean satires:

Bakhtin's theory

Menippean satire plays a special role in Mikhail Bakhtin's theory of the novel. In Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics, Bakhtin treats Menippean satire as one of the classical "serio-comic" genres, alongside Socratic dialogue and other forms that Bakhtin claims are united by a "carnival sense of the world," wherein "carnival is the past millennia's way of sensing the world as one great communal performance" and is "opposed to that one-sided and gloomy official seriousness which is dogmatic and hostile to evolution and change." Authors of "Menippea" in Bakhtin's sense include Voltaire, Diderot and E.T.A. Hoffmann.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Menippean satire" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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