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date: 05 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article explores some satirical texts by John Donne that seem to have little in common: Meter, The Courtier's Library, Ignatius his Conclave, Verse Letters mocking Thomas Coryate, and a number of ‘characters’ or essays, some of them of disputed authorship but that are probably or possibly by Donne. Each text has its own character, agenda, and context. Menippean satire, named for the ancient writer Menippos, of whose writings nothing remains but who figured in dialogues by the second-century satirist Lucian. It came to the Renaissance through what remained of works by the Roman Varro, the somewhat better-preserved Satyricon of Petronius, Apuleius' Golden Ass, Seneca's Apocolocyntosis, and Lucian himself. Renaissance opinion, however, was tolerably clear and broad; the humanist scholars whom Donne knew would have agreed with the laxer definitions, and would also have agreed that this often very erudite genre is particularly given to laughter at pretentious erudition.

Keywords: satitirical texts, Menippean satire, Menippos, Lucian, Renaissance, Roman Vaaro

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