Bachelor of Arts
Cynthia Taylor, PhD
This paper traces the use of satire as a literary form in England from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment. By analyzing three major English satirical writings from the 16th through 18th centuries, this paper unites literature and intellectual history, illustrating how literary analysis provides deeper insight into the progressive relationship between these two major eras in intellectual history. The paper provides a literary criticism of the genre of satire; the use of irony, humor, and exaggeration to criticize one’s vices, often relating to politics. First, the paper explores major concepts and themes of satire during the Renaissance period. Thomas More’s book Utopia is utilized as an example of Renaissance satire, emphasizing individualism and humanism present in the era. Second, Alexander Pope’s poem, “The Rape of the Lock, ” is closely read in order to depict the major differences between Renaissance and early Enlightenment societal criticisms. Finally, Johnathan Swift’s book Gulliver’s Travels is used to further depict the use of the genre in the latter portion of the Enlightenment movement, ultimately illustrating the progression of the literary genre in relation to societal and political events. This paper concludes with the assertion that through analyzing satire, historians can learn about social and political events prevalent in each era. The conditions under which these works were produced illustrate the intellectual history of the English Renaissance and Enlightenment.