Guide to Literary Terms

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What is the definition of satire?

The definition of satire is a literary work that seeks to criticize a particular person or institution through humor, irony, and other devices.


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Last Updated May 25, 2023.

A satire is a literary work that uses sarcasm, irony, exaggeration, ridicule, humor, wit, parody, caricature, or other methods to expose or criticize vice and folly. Writers use satire to showcase the flaws of people, institutions, and behaviors amusingly, entertaining readers and helping them notice problems or hypocrisies they might have overlooked prior. 


Satire comes from the Latin word satira, a form of satura, meaning “medley,” possibly from (lanx) satura, a mixed dish. 


While the ancient Greeks had no specific word for satire, they produced numerous satirical works, such as the playwright Aristophanes’s, whose satirical plays include The Knights and The Wasps


Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey is a satirical novel because it uses humor, wit, and irony to mock and criticizes aspects of society, especially conventions of the popular literature of the time.


see: parodycomedylampoon

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