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date: 18 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This introductory chapter looks at the problem of how we should describe eighteenth-century satire, and considers how to place it historically in the British eighteenth century. It gathers key literary extracts and anecdotes from the period, statements in which different discussions of satire intersect with larger ideas about the period’s culture and society. The chapter is organized into three sections. The first looks at satirical commonalities, including the uses of satire in associational life, the body of commonplace critical opinion about its function, and its connection with emerging constructions of British nationhood. The second turns to literary satire’s material forms, looking for patterns in the way it was consumed by readers of printed books. The third moves on from these generalized contexts to examine some of satire’s personal, particular implications, including the question of whether satire should always be general, whether it could avoid referring to individuals.

Keywords: description, conversation, ridicule, nation, book history, poetical miscellanies, Daniel Defoe, epitaphs, sentiment, sensibility

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