Satire: Deaths, Births, and Legacies - Extended CFP Deadline

deadline for submissions: 
June 4, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
York St John University
contact email: 

Satire: Deaths, Births, and Legacies

Saturday 2 June 2018

York St John University

School of Humanities, Religion and Philosophy

So—satire is no more—I feel it die—
No Gazetteer more innocent than I—
And let, a’ God’s name, every fool and knave
Be graced through life, and flattered in his grave.


Alexander Pope, ‘Epilogue to the Satires’ (1738)




2018 marks 350 years since the birth of Alexander Pope: poet, essayist and editor of The Dunciad, a landmark work of eighteenth-century satire which has proven both implacably canonical and endlessly controversial. Yet 350 years after the birth of Britain’s most notorious satirist, it is now  common-place to observe that satire is dead.


In 2017, celebrated satirist Armando Iannucci cautioned against the dangers of making the  American President a figure of fun, whilst also lamenting that the state of British politics was now ‘too silly’ to satirise. Journalist Emma Burnwell has this year concluded that populist leaders have won power across the globe by assuming the extremist identities that satire once imagined as absurd for comic effect. In a social media environment that makes satire personally and professionally dangerous for  the purveyors and targets of satire alike, we are left to wonder if this new era of post-truth must also be one of post-satire.


Proclamations of the death of satire are not new. Since as early as the eighteenth century, commentators have been asking questions about the health and validity of the genre: Can satire ever change that which it attacks, or does it simply reinforce the views of its readers? Is satire ever ethically sound? Does satire serve a legitimate social function other than entertainment? Indeed, the cases for and against satirical forms have proven as persistent as the form itself. So too have proclamations of its demise: Pope himself playfully suggested that satire was on its death bed as early as 1738.


The question of satire and its contemporary relevance is therefore both an urgent one, and one with a long and fascinating historical context. Examining satire, parody, pastiche, and caricature, this conference will comment on the broader social function of satire, variously confirming, complicating, or condemning narratives of its decline. It seeks to examine moments in British literary history, from the eighteenth century though to the present day, when satire has been celebrated as successful or condemned as ineffective, unnecessary or obsolete. It will celebrate and interrogate the legacies of eighteenth-century satire, foregrounding prior supposed deaths and rebirths of the form to consider the extent to which reports of satire’s death have been exaggerated.


We welcome papers on any literary period from 1688 to the present day. Postgraduate and Early Career Scholars are welcome, and we plan to produce an edited collection of essays developed from papers delivered at this conference.


Papers may explore such topics as:


  • Satire and activism
  • Satire and authorial identity/afterlives
  • Satire and canonicity
  • Satire and caricature
  • Satire and censorship
  • Satire and consequences
  • Satire and the establishment
  • Satire and ethics
  • Satire and failure
  • Satire and form: parody, impression, caricature, spoof etc.
  • Satire and government
  • Satire and hoax
  • Satire and marginalised groups or peripheral identity
  • Satire and paratext
  • Satire and partisanship
  • Satire and truth
  • Satire, subversion and transgression


Please send your 200-word abstract to either Dr Jo Waugh ( or Dr Adam J Smith (


 In solidarity with USS/UCU Strike action we have extended our CFP deadline until Friday 6 April. When the battle is won, drop us a line.

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