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Book Chapter

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Teaching Modern British And American Satire

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Options For Teaching


Howard Weinbrot argues that Menippean satire tends to be produced in eras of "broken or fragile national, cultural, religious, political or generally intellectual values" (7). It protests cultural decadence and decline by incorporating contradiction into its form, using "at least two other genres, languages, cultures, or changes of voice to oppose a dangerous, false, or specious and threatening orthodoxy" (6). Although it may feature memorable characters, the Menippean mode primarily targets diseased and dangerous ideas or habits. It is encyclopedic in range and ambition, absorbing and parodying different discourses and genres while constructing a narrative via debates, fantasies, annotations (either within the text or in footnotes and/or appendices), and other rhetorical devices. The result is an anxious, angry, labyrinthine, fragmented, stubbornly contrarian text. Menippean elements well describe the texture and structure of Gary Shteyngart’s fiction and the crisis in U.S. imperial confidence at the end of the “American Century” that Shteyngart anatomizes. In particular, in his 2010 novel Super Sad True Love Story utopian narratives of technological progress, the triumph of neoliberalism, and “American Restoration” are roiled by anxious visions of decline, invasion, and loss occurring within the psyches of individual characters, their relationships, and the nation-state itself. The essay contains suggestions for teachers in constructing a lesson plan for teaching Shteyngart's novel to undergraduate students.

Published By

Modern Language Association of America


E. R. Davis and N. D. Nace


This work is a pre-publication version that is freely available courtesy of MLA.

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