The Twentieth Century
Although 20th-century satire continues to register Horatian or Juvenalian reactions to the enormities of an age dominated by fear of the atom bomb and plagued by pollution, racism, drugs, planned obsolescence, and the abuse of power, critics have discerned some shifts in its source. In some instances the satirist is the audience rather than the artist. Hence the enthusiasm in the 1960s for "camp"—defined by Susan Sontag as meaning works of art that can be enjoyed but not taken seriously, even though they may have been created seriously—indeed, works that are enjoyed for the very qualities that make them second-rate. Sontag's examples of "camp" include Tiffany lamps, the ballet Swan Lake, and the movie Casablanca. Occasionally the audience is the victim of the satire. The so-called put-on, whether a play (Samuel Beckett's Breath, in which breathing is heard on a blacked-out stage), a joke (Lenny Bruce's nightclub routines), or an artifact (John Chamberlain's smashed-up cars), seeks to confuse its audience by presenting the fraudulent as a true work of art, thus rendering the whole concept of "art" questionable. More conventional contemporary satirists of note are Sinclair Lewis, James Thurber, Aldous Huxley, Evelyn Waugh, W. H. Auden, Philip Roth, and Joseph Heller.
Sections in this article:
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.