Satire and parody in the fiction of Thomas Love Peacock and the early writings of William Makepeace Thackeray, 1815-1850
This thesis examines the works of Peacock and the early periodical contributions of Thackeray in the light of recent twentieth-century critical interpretations of satire. In particular, attention to Peacock's use of elements of the Menippean sub-genre in his satirical fiction offers a reassessment of his place in the literary tradition. While Thackeray's early writings demonstrate some characteristics of Menippean satire, a review of his work from the broader perspective of Bakhtin's exposition of carnival influences in serio-comic literature provides a new understanding of the origins and uses of his narratorial devices. A comparison of the work of the two authors, within the time constraint of the first half of the nineteenth century, illustrates how nineteenth-century publishing innovations shaped literary perception of satire. Although the high status of the genre in the predominant culture of the previous century was challenged by the growth of the reading public, satire found new energy and modes of expression in the popular magazines of the period. In addition, writers facing the increasing heterogeneity of new reading audiences, were forced to reconsider their personal ideals of authorship and literature, while renegotiating their position in the literary marketplace. Organized in six chapters, the discussion opens with an account of traditional interpretations of satire, and goes on to examine recent analyses of the genre. The second chapter focuses on the relevance of these new interpretations to the work of Peacock and Thackeray and the extent to which the use of Menippean forms of satire enabled each to challenge the established opinions of their period. Changes in concepts of reading and writing and innovations in modes of publication form the substance of the third chapter and this is followed by an analysis of the work of both writers, using Bakhtin's interpretation of the Menippean sub-genre in the broader context of serio-comic discourse and the carnival tradition, Chapter five is a comparative study of the attitudes of both writers towards contemporary literature and the final section places their work in the political context of the period. Both Peacock and Thackeray made extensive use of elements of Menippean satire in their fiction. The content of their work, however, and their modes of writing were highly individual, to some extent shaped by the different markets they supplied. Collectively, their writings illustrate two aspects of the cultural watershed of the early nineteenth century, Peacock reflecting traditional notions of authorship and Thackeray representing a new industry, regulated by the commercial considerations of supply and demand. As satirists,each succeeded in adapting the genre to satisfy both his own authorial integrity and the expectations of his readers.