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Lampoon

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Lampoon

Think of late-night TV shows. They often have sketches where they make fun of celebrities or politicians. Is there a parody of a particular individual that you found mean but hilarious? Did the parody exaggerate their behavior? Capture the person's flaws? Late-night TV continues the tradition of lampooning popular celebrities and important figures in culture and politics. This harsh critique roots itself in ancient tradition and continues to the present day.

Lampoon Definition

A lampoon is a satiric, vicious mocking of an individual in prose or poetry. Writers predominantly use lampoons to write scathing attacks against other individuals, frequently for social or political purposes. Lampoons have their origins in ancient Greek writing, with plays often making fun of prominent members of Greek society.

The word "lampoon" comes from the French word "lampon," which means to satirize or ridicule. This type of writing was also popular in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. With the development of libel laws, laws that allow individuals to sue a writer if the information in a text is false and damages a person's reputation, writers had to be careful that their attacks were not too vicious. However, writers still create lampoons today. Late-night TV shows typically mock celebrities or politicians, and books regularly parody prominent members of society.

Uses of Lampoon in a Sentence

You can use lampoon both as a noun and a verb in a sentence. As a noun, you would write, "She wrote the lampoon to ridicule the famous politician." Using it as a verb, you would say, "She lampooned the famous politician."

Lampoon as a Literary Form

Lampoon is a comedic form of writing that is a type of satire. While lampoons share some similarities to satires, there are differences between these two forms. Further, while authors employ irony in some satires, they do not use it when writing lampoons. Knowing the differences between these terms will help you identify and analyze lampoons in writing.

Differences Between Lampoon and Satire

Lampoons are a type of satire.

Satire: a literary genre that uses irony, sarcasm, and wit to reveal human vices or social problems.

In literature, a genre is a type of writing with unique traits and conventions. As a genre, satire's primary purpose is to expose societal issues and provoke change using literary devices like irony and sarcasm. Literary devices are tools authors use to support, convey, and reinforce their purpose. In satire, devices like irony and sarcasm draw the reader's attention to the social issues the author wants to critique.

The subjects of satire tend to focus on politics and society. A famous example of satire is Jonathan Swift's 1729 essay "A Modest Proposal."1 To bring awareness of poverty in Ireland, Swift uses satire to propose that surplus infants from poorer communities should become food. Swift's shocking argument revealed British society's callousness toward the poor.

Lampoons, on the other hand, are a literary form. The word form describes a type of writing with a specific purpose or structure. Satire is a broad genre that can include a variety of novels, essays, and poems. Lampoons, however, have a specific purpose. Lampoons are a literary form that focuses on satirizing individuals. While lampoons focus on ridiculing a person, they can use their attack on the person to reveal a social concern, especially if a writer mocks a political figure.

For example, Swift lampoons contemporary poets in his poem "On Poetry: a Rhapsody."2 He asks, "From bad to worse, and worse they fall; / But who can reach the worst of all?" From there, he lampoons several contemporary poets, writing attacks like the following about how the poetry reaches infinite depths of badness: "Concanen, more aspiring bard, Soars downward deeper by a yard." Swift is not trying to raise awareness around a political or social issue in this poem. He instead lampoons his contemporaries' writing to reveal what he thought was poetry's bad state.

Differences Between Lampoon and Irony

A common tool used in making satire is irony.

Irony: a contradiction between expectations and reality

Irony can occur in several ways in a text. You can say something but mean something different. There can also be a contradiction between what happens and what you expect to happen.

Lampoon, picture of barred windows with sign stating "support" community", StudySmarterThis picture is an example of irony--the person says they support community, but they bar their windows from the community.

It is important to remember that irony is a literary device, not a genre. Satire is a genre, and irony is a device used to create satire. Irony is a device writers use when crafting satire by setting up contradictions between what the text says and the meaning of the text. For example, Swift uses irony in "A Modest Proposal." While the text proposes using young infants as food to solve hunger, Swift actually means to criticize a society that fails to address hunger as a serious problem.

In lampoons, there is often no contradiction between expectations and reality. Lampoons directly criticize their target. For example, when Swift lampoons the poets in "On Poetry: a Rhapsody," he does not have any false praise for their work. Instead, he attacks their bad poetry.

Lampoon Synonyms

People sometimes use words like "satire" or "irony" to define lampoon. While these words are similar, they do not share the same meaning. Remember that lampoon is a type of satire. Irony is a device used to create some satires, but not lampoons. There are some literary forms that are similar to lampoons.

Caricature

A caricature is a literary device where a writer ridicules a person by exaggerating and simplifying their behavior or personality. Lampoons use caricatures as a device. Writers need to use caricatures to exaggerate their target's flaws since the purpose of lampoons is to mock an individual.

Lampoon, magazine cover with caricature of politician, StudySmarterMagazines often have caricatures or parodies of famous individuals.

Parody

A parody is a comedic literary form that imitates an author's or genre's style to ridicule its conventions. In some lampoons, the author will write within the style of the author they hope to ridicule. By using the author's style, not only do they satirize the author, but they also make fun of their writing.

Pasquinade

A pasquinade is a brief lampoon hung up or performed in a public place to mock a public figure. Pasquinades originated in ancient Rome and were popular during the medieval era. For example, this pasquinade from Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus lampoons Pope Julius II, who was notoriously greedy.3 In the dialogue, Pope Julius II attempts to enter heaven.

JULIUS: What the devil is this? The doors don’t open? Somebody must have changed the lock or broken it.GENIUS: It seems more likely that you didn’t bring theproper key; for this door doesn’t open to the same key as asecret money-chest.

Lampoon Examples

The following examples demonstrate the function of lampoons.

The Frogs by Aristophanes

Lampoons target the personality, traits, and behavior found in a public figure. One of the earliest examples of lampoons comes from ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes. He wrote comedies mocking Greek society and individuals. In his play The Frogs, Aristophanes writes a lampoon of the philosopher Socrates, who held long philosophical conversations with the public in common spaces. Here is how Aristophanes lampoons Socrates for this behavior.4

Better not to sit at the feet

of Sokrates and chatter,

nor cast out of the heart

the high serious matter

of tragic art.

Better not to compete

in the no-good lazy

Sokratic dialogue.

Man, that is crazy.

In this example, Aristophanes creates a caricature of Socrates to lampoon him. From what we know about Socrates, he had conversations with students and other members of Athenian society. In these dialogues, which his students transcribed, Socrates would often not come to a definite conclusion about a complicated philosophical topic. He mocks Socrates' ability to hold these conversations by calling them "no-good" and "lazy" and stating it would be "crazy" to participate in them.

"The Reasons…" by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

Seventeenth- and eighteenth-century authors wrote particularly vicious lampoons. For example, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu wrote a scathing lampoon of famous satirist Jonathan Swift, who wrote a satiric poem about the unsanitary conditions found within a woman's dressing room. Montagu found Swift's poem offensive and wrote a lampoon based on him entitled "The Reasons that Induced Dr. S. to Write a Poem Call'd the Lady's Dressing Room."

In the poem, Montagu imagines Swift visits a potential lover who rebukes him, which causes him to write his original poem. Below is one of the biting attacks Montagu writes. She critiques Swift's appearance by implying he wears a wig to hide a bald spot. She also mocks his intelligence by stating that he is a poor thinker and follows bad philosophy.5

With admiration oft we see

Hard features heightened by toupée

. . .

Wit is the citizen's ambition,

Poor Pope philosophy displays on

With so much rhyme and little reason,

And though he argues ne'er so long

That all is right, his head is wrong.

In this lampoon, you can find examples of both caricature and parody. Montagu caricatures Swift by exaggerating his physical appearance and his intelligence. She uses parody by mimicking Swift's original style. Her caricature and parody contribute to her purpose of critiquing Swift's ego and misogyny.

Late-night TV

Lampoons exist in the contemporary era, but the critiques found in literary and cultural works are not as direct or harsh. A modern example of a lampoon is the late-night TV show Saturday Night Live. The show features sketches that often lampoon celebrities and politicians. The sketches parody real-life events and caricature these individuals' behavior and flaws. These lampoons typically have a deeper political meaning to raise awareness about politicians' hypocrisy or a celebrity's vanity. You can consider these sketches as a modern pasquinade. Instead of publicly mocking an individual on the streets, comedians broadcast their lampoon of a public figure on national TV.

Lampoon, Saturday Night Live, StudySmarterLate-night shows like Saturday Night Live are modern examples of lampoons.

Analyzing Lampoons

To analyze lampoons in writing, ask yourself the following questions.

  • Who is the target of the lampoon? Your first step should be to figure out who the author is critiquing in their lampoon. The author may name their target, but if the writer does not state the person's name, you may need to infer information about the person through context clues.

  • How is the author creating the lampoon? Are they caricaturing the person or parodying their writing style? You will want to analyze which parts of the target's behavior or personality the author is critiquing. You also want to examine how the author is caricaturing or exaggerating these traits. Further, you will want to determine if the author is parodying the target's writing style.

  • Is the lampoon merely to mock the individual, or is there a broader social critique found in the lampoon? You will want to consider whether there is a broader social critique in the lampoon. For example, is there criticism of specific political behavior or ideologies in a lampoon of a politician?

  • How does the lampoon contribute to the author's purpose? After considering these points, you will want to analyze the lampoon in connection with the author's intent. You will want to think about the author's goal for writing and how the lampoon contributes to that goal.

Lampoon - Key Takeaways

  • A lampoon is a satiric, vicious mocking of an individual in prose or poetry.
  • Lampoons are different than satires, which use irony, sarcasm, and wit to reveal human vices or social problems. Lampoons may have social critiques, but their purpose may also be mocking an individual.
  • Some satires use irony, or the contradiction between expectations and reality, as a literary device. Lampoons do not have irony.
  • Literary forms similar to lampoons include caricatures, parodies, and pasquinades.
  • To analyze lampoons, you will want to figure out the target of the lampoon, how the author critiques them, whether there is a broader critique, and how these factors relate to the author's purpose.

1. Jonathan Swift, "A Modest Proposal," 1729.2. Jonathan Swift, "On Poetry: A Rhapsody," 1733.3. Desiderius Erasmus, trans. Robert M. Adams, "Julius Excluded from Heaven," 1514.4. Aristophanes, trans. Robert Lattimore, The Frogs, 405 BCE.5. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, "The Reasons that Induced Dr. S. to Write a Poem Call'd the Lady's Dressing Room," 1734.

Frequently Asked Questions about Lampoon

A lampoon is a satiric, vicious mocking of an individual in prose or poetry.

Satire is a literary genre that uses irony, sarcasm, and wit to reveal human vices or social problems. Lampoon is a type of satire that focuses on attacking individuals. 

Irony is a literary device, or a tool an author uses to support their purpose. Irony is the contradiction between expectations and reality. Often, writers use these contradictions in satire to draw the reader's attention to social issues and problems. Lampoons may not use irony. Rather, their critique of individuals is more straightforward and will not contain contradictions. 

Lampoons are a type of satire. Satire is a broad genre where an author uses irony, sarcasm, and wit to critique society. Lampoons are a form, and their specific purpose is to ridicule individuals. 

Lampoons have their origins in ancient Greek writing, with plays often making fun of prominent members of Greek society. The word "lampoon" comes from the French word "lampon," which means to satirize or ridicule.

Final Lampoon Quiz

Question

What is a lampoon? 

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Answer

A lampoon is a satiric, vicious mocking of an individual in prose or poetry.

Show question

Question

What is satire?

Show answer

Answer

Satire is a literary genre that uses irony, sarcasm, and wit to reveal human vices or social problems.  

Show question

Question

What is irony? 

Show answer

Answer

Irony is a contradiction between expectations and reality.

Show question

Question

Which of the following literary forms is not similar to lampoons?

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Answer

Irony

Show question

Question

True or false: Lampoons are a type of satire.

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Answer

True

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Question

True or false: Irony is often used to create lampoons. 


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Answer

False

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Question

"The singer was so off-key that she created a new melody."


What literary device is found in this lampoon?

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Answer

Caricature

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Question

A writer mocks a peer by imitating their writing style. What literary device is found in this lampoon?

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Answer

Parody

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Question

Which of the following is an example of irony? 

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Answer

A character saying "great weather" when it is storming outside. 

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What is the primary difference between a satire and a lampoon?

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Answer

Satires tend to critique society and politics while lampoons attack individuals.

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Question

What is the origin of the word lampoon?


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Answer

The Greek word lamponn 


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Where do lampoons have their origins?


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Answer

Ancient Greek writing. Ancient Greek plays often made fun of prominent members of Greek society. 


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What are libel laws?


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Answer

Libel laws are laws that allow individuals to sue a writer if the information in a text is false and damages a person’s reputation. 

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Lampoons were really popular in: 


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Answer

The 14th and 15th centuries 


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True or false. Lampoon is a literary form. 


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Answer

True


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Question

As a genre, satire’s primary purpose is to _ _ _ and _ _ 


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Answer

As a genre, satire’s primary purpose is to expose societal issues and provoke change. 


Show question

Question

Jonathan Swift’s 1729 essay “A Modest Proposal” is a famous example of

Show answer

Answer

Lampoon 


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Question

What does the word form describe in writing?


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Answer

The word forms describes a type of writing with a specific purpose and structure. 


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Question

True or false. Lampoons have a specific purpose. 


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Answer

True


Show question

Question

Jonathan Swift’s poem “On Poetry: a Rhapsody” is an example of:

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Answer

Satire


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