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7.28.2003

I am co-writing what I thought was a satire of a children’s book, which led a friend to ask the following question:

Are satire and parody two separate and distinct genres, or is parody merely one form of satire?

Well, yes . . . and no. My gut reaction is that they are two distinct genres, often containing elements of the other form. To put the question in a slightly different way: can parody exist apart from satire?

I found the following definitions at Merriam-Webster online:

Main Entry: sat·ire
Etymology: Middle French or Latin; Middle French, from Latin satura, satira, perhaps from (lanx) satura dish of mixed ingredients, from feminine of satur well-fed; akin to Latin satis enough
Date: 1501
1 : a literary work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn
2 : trenchant wit, irony, or sarcasm used to expose and discredit vice or folly

Main Entry: par·o·dy
Etymology: Latin parodia, from Greek parOidia, from para- + aidein to sing --
Date: 1598
1 : a literary or musical work in which the style of an author or work is closely imitated for comic effect or in ridicule
2 : a feeble or ridiculous imitation

Satire seems to include a broader range of subject matter than parody. Satire may encompass – according to this definition, at least -- human vices and follies. All human vices and follies, implicitly. Parody, by contrast, is an approximation of a particular style or styles for comic effect. I think it follows that satire would tend to have broader themes than parody, and that parody might not concern itself with themes at all . . . but might parody rather operate in a different mode entirely, mocking, as it does, a specific style? One apparent difference is that parody is narrower in scope, generally speaking.



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