Sex And Defence As Modes Of Discourse

907 words - 4 pages

According to Paul Simpson, author of, ‘On the Discourse of Satire: Towards a Stylistic Model of Satirical Humour,’ the successful projection of satire must accomplish “simultaneously a number of humorous functions” (p. 4). In the introduction to his argument, Simpson states that satire as discourse should be understood “as a level of language organization that supersedes that of the sentence and as a type of meaning potential that arises out of the interaction between text and context” (p.1). The juxtaposition that Simpson describes here between text and context, indicates how satire as a literary tool relies heavily on both interpretation and topicality; whereby, satirical references must entertain current, local and relatable interests of its’ audience, so that the significance of what is being said is not lost. Simpson’s argument is constructed around what is called the ‘model of humour’ (Ziv 1988: 225; see also Ziv 1984), which describes five functions as being the key elements of humour: the sexual, the defensive, the aggressive, the social and the intellectual function. There are three, however, deemed by Simpson as being, “most directly relevant to satirical discourse:” (p.3) the aggressive, the social, and the intellectual. By extracting from Ziv’s model of humour only three of the five elements— overlooking the sexual and defensive functions in satirical discourse—Simpson’s overall argument that “satire is multi-functional in character” is weakened. By examining the works of classic satirists Sheridan, Pope, and Swift, who readily engage with the sexual and defensive functions of satirical discourse, it becomes apparent that Simpson overlooks the strengths of the sexual and defensive functions. The works of these authors alone contradict Simpson’s argument that the aggressive, the social and the intellectual modes are most relevant to satirical discourse.

Though Simpson elaborates on the three functions deemed most relevant in satirical discourse, he dismisses the significance of both the sexual and defensive by
amalgamating, what he proposes, are their functions. He states that,
of these categories, the sexual function, where laughing about sex is seen as a way of dealing with the topic in a socially acceptable way, is probably better classed as a subcategory of the defensive mode, given that the function accommodates the use of humour to deal with a whole range of “anxiogenic” or difficult topics” (p.3).

This is the only reference Simpson makes toward both the defensive and sexual functions throughout his introduction on satirical discourse. He downplays the importance of the sexual function, implying that if it were not for the defensive function there would be no need to employ a sexual mode of discourse to begin with. Simpson subjects the sexual and defensive functions to a sort of dependent push-and-pull relationship, unlike the aggressive, the social, and the intellectual functions, which receive significant and...

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