StreetWrites Workshop for Writing Out of the Margins

The Quality of Insult Is Not Strained

  • The rant
  • The Bardic satire
  • Irony
  • Sarcasm
  • Parody
  • Travesty
  • Burlesque
  • Sharp wit
  • Sly dig
  • and just plain insult
  • What's the difference between them?

        Does it matter? You might have to pass an English exam someday, but you'll have a long life past that we hope, and where else will it be important to qualify the dividing line between irony and sarcasm, parody and satire?
        Yes, there are grammar-nazis on the Net who will leap upon you with satirical sarcasm if you call something a "parody" that was actually a "burlesque." But most of them are travesties themselves.
        You can already tell if a writer is having fun with a subject or poking fun at it, so what else do you need to know?

    Some values to this exercise:
  • Some readers don't always catch whether a writer is having fun or poking fun. Doing a bit of exercise on the subject will increase your chances of not getting tripped up, and untripping others.
  • Some of the tools of literary satire—invective, ridicule, sarcasm, lampoon, hyperbole and caricature, to name a few—are used in daily life, on Usenet and in politics, in college dorms and at the family dinner table. Being able to spot these tools being used can give you more control over the effect they have on you.
  • Learn lots more techniques to use when you write a letter to the editor (or an open mic poem) besides the basic frothing rant. Examine the effects of invective, ridicule, sarcasm, lampoon, hyperbole, caricature, etc. and decide when you actually want to use them in your daily life.
  • Add new words to your vocabulary and cow the grammar-nazis.

    There are so many variants to this subject that this Primer is divided into a series of parts:
  • Basic techniques of the Rant:
  • Invective
  • Ridicule
  • The related topics of:
  • Parody
  • Burlesque
  • Travesty
  • Mock Epic
  • and something else entirely, Pastiche
  • Some of the tools of satire:
  • Irony
  • Hyperbole
  • Oxymoron
  • Understatement
  • Tone
  • The shades of satire:
  • Satire
  • Juvenalian Satire
  • Bardic Satire
  • Lampoon
  • Sarcasm
  • Horatian Satire
  • A quick look at old forms:
  • The Novel of Manners
  • The Picaresque Novel
  • A StreetWrites original: the "Wessitur" — a form of satire using a chain of seeming nonsequiturs to make a point by creative juxtaposition.

  • Each section includes definitions from A Glossary of Literary Terms by Robert Harris, combined with an analysis of the uses and effect of the form or technique, quoted examples from a variety of sources, discussion questions, practice exercises, and guidelines for critique.

    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
      Pastiche Oxymoron Sarcasm
        Tone Horatian Satire

    Write On!
    Anitra L. Freeman

    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.

    StreetWrites Workshop Exercises