NEW Summer 2023 - The Ambiguities of Satire

Kent Wicker
Summer 1 Extended 2023
Wednesdays, 6-9 PM
GLS House, 2114 Campus Drive

Click here to watch a course preview video.

Satire is all around us, from internet memes and fake websites to sketch comedy, political cartoons and movies.  Rewriting our social or political realities from a different angle can – if done well – be wickedly funny.  It is a real pleasure to see truths punctured and assumptions set askew.

In this class, we will explore what satire is and how it works.  This will include asking questions such as:

  • How does satire work in your personal value system?  Is anything beyond the pale?  Who and what are proper targets for satire?  
  • Satire can be seen as the “spoonful of sugar” that lowers our resistance to the “medicine” of social or political critique.  But in making that critique more palatable, does satire end up functioning as a sort of pressure release valve that undermines any real social change?
  • What is satire’s relationship to truth?  During the era of Trump, behaviors previously seen as deplorable have been normalized. How can satire compete with reality in an age of postmodern “truthiness”?

In this class we will try to answer such questions by exploring both classic (e.g. Dickens, Twain) and contemporary works of satire (e.g. Get Out, Parks & Rec, The Daily Show, SNL, Ask a Slave). Exactly how that works we will figure out as we go along.  A good deal of the course material will be student-generated, as students share and discuss their own favorite examples of satire – with the option of creating and sharing satire of your own as well.  

About Kent Wicker
Graduate Liberal Studies

Kent Wicker's academic interests include 1) issues of class, gender and region in American and post-colonial literatures; 2) narrative theory and the historical development of the novel; and 3) literary representation, realism, satire and fantasy.  He is also interested in embodiment, religious and intellectual history, and the history of everyday life.   With Donna Zapf, he created the GLS Core Course in interdisciplinary studies and now serves as assistant director of the GLS program.