If you are ever asked the question in a quiz, "What is the difference between parody and burlesque?" the commonly accepted distinction is that parody makes fun of a work's content and burlesque makes fun of its form. As you can see from Professor Harris's definitions, however, that distinction isn't held rigidly; and many works have fun with both the form and content of the original.
One fairly clear distinction is that in order to write a parody you have to have an original, and a parody is greater appreciated the more familiar you are with the original. A travesty needs only a subject, and a burlesque can go either way.
Not all parody is intended to ridicule the author or the work. It may be triggered by noticing an amusing parallel between a serious song and a less serious situation. Stan Rogers wrote a grand inspiring song about "The Mary Ellen Carter" in which a noble old ship, sunk in a gale, is raised and renewed by her loyal crew. The final chorus draws a parallel to human life, urging the listener, in the face of misfortune, to "rise again." The parody song, "Eensy-Weensy Spider Rise Again!" is a mock epic using the form of the Mary Ellen Carter song to celebrate the little spider's rise back up the drainpipe after a storm. A version of "The House of the Rising Sun" tells the tragic story of what befell when one mother fed her child baker's yeast just before he slept in a dark, warm room. Some of the motivation of this song was a reaction to too many repetitions of the original. Much of it was the parodist's mind picking up a pun and playing with it.
Cultural Variants on the Night Before Christmas, at Amazon.com:
If the form used to tell one familiar story can be used to tell another one pronouncedly different, that is also amusing, with or without satire. Countless forms of "The Night Before Christmas" (original by Clement Clarke Moore) retell it in modern settings or dialects. Some, like 'Twas the Night Before Christmas ATF Raid, are travesties, ridiculing some aspect of modern life (in this instance, bungled government raids) by using the form of the old Christmas rhyme. Cajun Night Before Christmas, by Trosclair, is a happy and affectionate romp. (The illustrations are delightful, too!) (I was linking to a version posted on the Net, but I found out that the book is still in print, so I am linking to Amazon.com instead.)
One variant not mentioned by Professor Harris is the pastiche. A pastiche is a respectful imitation that, unlike a parody, attempts to make the original author proud of it. (Not that many of us wouldn't be proud to be parodied; it is a sign that you've "made it" in the literary world.)
Brian Aldiss and many other authors have continued and elaborated upon the Cthulhu Mythos begun by H.P. Lovecraft. Countless writers have written Sherlock Holmes stories. Robert Jordan has a series of Conan novels. Most fan fiction is pastiche. The Conan movie attempted to be pastiche, but ended up a travesty.
Most widely known literary works inspire both parodies and pastiches.Exercise 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|
All contents and images are created and copyrighted by Anitra Freeman, except quotes from published material, which are attributed to the author and used only for educational purposes. Others may use this material, on request, for personal or educational purposes where no fee is charged, with credit to the author and a link wherever possible.