High invective, depending on formal language and creative expression, creates an entirely different impression than low invective, which depends primarily on the shock value of stock words and images. While creative use of slang, and especially multilingual cursing, has its admirers, most connoisseurs consider really well-done invective an art form in which the use of common swear words is cliché. As Swift's line shows, an opponent can be thoroughly smeared without the use of one four-letter word.
Well and thoroughly done, as in the old Bardic Satires and Irish Insults and Jonathan Swift's quote above, dramatic invective can become fascinating, almost beautiful to behold. It can be a satisfying emotional release for the speaker and, vicariously, for the reader, especially in times of frustration, as when addressing idiots in a position of power and other annoyances that won't go away, like commercials and teenagers.
Invective is not, however, a powerful tool of persuasion. Ridicule has sometimes shamed an opponent into altering their position, but invective usually polarizes and hardens positions instead. Some audiences automatically reject all invective. They will refuse to read or listen to it, and will discount any argument you are making with it, on the premise that if you had any facts to use you wouldn't be throwing insults. Those who are uncommitted are just as likely to be won over to the defense of the person you are attacking, as to be won over to your side by the strength of your attack.
Invective is most useful in "preaching to the converted": reinforcing an already-existing attitude, creating solidarity and emotional identification, intensifying emotions to drive action. It may also be used to provoke a reaction. Demonstrators who taunt the police or politicians, for example, are often doing both.Discussion Questions:
|Rant||Parody||Technique||Satire||Old Forms & New|
|Invective||Burlesque||Irony||Juvenalian Satire||The Novel of Manners|
|Ridicule||Travesty||Hyperbole||Bardic Satire||The Picaresque Novel|
|Mock Epic||Understatement||Lampoon||The Wessitur|
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