Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Political satire: a historical perspective

First in an occasional series.

Political satire has a long history, in the U.S. and elsewhere. It has always been a controversial genre, because the politics and satire mix is a spicy one. It seems apropos just now to take a look at some famous satirists.

First up:
Freneau, Philip [Morin] (1752-1832). Philip Freneau fulfilled the dream of his wine merchant father, Pierre Fresneau (old spelling) when he entered the Class of 1771 to prepare for the ministry. Well versed in the classics in Monmouth County under the tutelage of William Tennent, Philip entered Princeton as a sophomore in 1768, but the joy of the occasion was marred by his father's financial losses and death the year before. In spite of financial hardships, Philip's Scottish mother believed that her oldest of five children would graduate and join the clergy. Though he was a serious student of theology and a stern moralist all his life, Freneau found his true calling in literature. As his roommate and close friend James Madison recognized early, Freneau's wit and verbal skills would make him a powerful wielder of the pen and a formidable adversary on the battlefields of print. Freneau soon became the unrivaled ``poet of the Revolution'' and is still widely regarded as the ``Father of American Literature.'[source]

Freneau's satire often took the form of poetry, and like much political satire tends to require explication for people today to "get it."


Blogger democraticjack said...

Thanks for this. It's fascinating how people who changed the world paths crossed so often in history, be it in politics or the arts.

July 15, 2008 at 10:58 PM  
Anonymous Mirlo said...

In my profession, images (also cartoons)and poetry play a big role. It is evident, time and again, that the interpretation of words and images differ from person to person, according to each one's associations and openness. Especially though the difference between the "message" perceived by the one that created it and others that merely look at it, is sometimes controversial.
The sting of satire opens doors to new thoughts, discussions, feelings, if it weren't controversial, those doors would remain shut

July 16, 2008 at 3:38 AM  

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