Acephalous Authority

Clement Hawes

in The Oxford Handbook of Literature and the English Revolution

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199560608
Published online January 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

Acephalous Authority

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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)


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This article discusses the satires of Samuel Butler, Andrew Marvell, and John Dryden. All three authors convey a strongly satirical take on the volatile Zeitgeist — its mood of damaged and shaky authority — but their modes of rejection are politically and stylistically distinct. Butler tends toward a poetics of the absurd that drains recent events of larger meaning. Marvell's satirical processing of historical reversals emphasizes a piquant element of the perverse. Dryden favours a counterpoint of the grotesque and baroque. Each of the three satirists tends to pit the small and the domestic against the overblown. All three reject what they see as brainless attitudes toward recent history, narcotized manifestations of the oblivious, the forgetful, and the soothingly dull. There can be no question in their satires of merely rehabilitating the mystique of olden times. And though their satires reject present-day chaos, they do so by way of trying out newly domesticated and denaturalized configurations of authority.

Keywords: Samuel Butler; Andrew Marvell; John Dryden; satire; Zeitgeist

Article.  7944 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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