The Twentieth Century
Although 20th-century satire continued to register Horatian or Juvenalian reactions to the enormities of an age dominated by fear of the atom bomb and plagued by pollution, racism, drugs, planned obsolescence, and the abuse of power, critics discerned some shifts in its source. In some instances the audience, rather than the artist, became the satirist. Hence the enthusiasm in the 1960s for
camp—defined by Susan Sontag as meaning works of art that can be enjoyed but not taken seriously, even though they may have been created seriously—indeed, works that are enjoyed for the very qualities that make them second-rate. Sontag's examples of
camp include Tiffany lamps, the ballet Swan Lake, and the movie Casablanca. Occasionally the audience was the victim of the satire. The so-called put-on, whether a play (Samuel Beckett's Breath, in which breathing is heard on a blacked-out stage), a joke (Lenny Bruce's nightclub routines), or an artifact (John Chamberlain's smashed-up cars), sought to confuse its audience by presenting the fraudulent as a true work of art, thus rendering the whole concept of
art questionable. More conventional 20th-century satirists of note were Sinclair Lewis, James Thurber, Aldous Huxley, Evelyn Waugh, W. H. Auden, Philip Roth, and Joseph Heller.
Sections in this article:
- Classical Satirists
- The Golden Age of Satire
- The Nineteenth Century
- The Twentieth Century
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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