Mock-Heroic from Butler to Cowper : An English Genre and Discourse book cover
1st Edition

Mock-Heroic from Butler to Cowper
An English Genre and Discourse

ISBN 9780754606239
Published March 18, 2005 by Routledge
224 Pages

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Book Description

Mock-heroic is the exemplary genre of the English Augustan era: it is one of the few genres that the Augustans invented themselves, and it stands in a symbolic relation to a culture still reverential of the grandeurs of the classical past and uneasy about its ability to emulate them. Mock-Heroic from Butler to Cowper shows the protean nature of mock-epic at this time. It recounts the rise of mock-heroic, discusses the properties of the form, and explores its relation both to classical epic and to contemporary genres such as the poetic travesty and the novel. It also tracks the relation of mock-heroic to the concept to the sublime, especially to the low sublime unwittingly perfected by Richard Blackmore. Terry goes beyond previous commentators in arguing that mock-heroic was not merely a conventional genre, but also provided a supple discourse through which writers could represent a range of personal and social issues. He identifies mock-heroic properties in the Mandevillian discourse of economics and in the rhetoric of male gallantry towards women, in which women were simultaneously elevated and put down. He also sees mock-heroic as informing the idea of divine grace in the poetry and letters of William Cowper. Mixing a historical approach with incisive close readings, Terry provides a powerful re-evaluation of the form.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Mock-heroic in the English Augustan Era; Butler's Hudibras: heroic impertinence; Blackmore and the low sublime; Mock-heroic and luxury: the heroi-comical poem; Mock-heroic and gallantry: Pope's Rape of the Lock; The rhetoric of Augustan mockery; Mock-heroic and grace: the case of Cowper; On laughter and ludicrous composition; Bibliography; Index.

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Richard Terry is Reader in English Literature at the University of Sunderland, UK. He is the author of Poetry and the Making of the English Literary Past 1660-1781 (2001), and has written numerous articles on the literary culture of the eighteenth century.


'This is a very valuable book that provides a clear introduction to the mock-heroic, its literary manifestations throughtout the eighteenth century, and the forms of life and habits of mind that go along with it... Its breadth and clarity will make it useful for students in the early stages of grappling with the genre, and also for those students and academics developing a sense of mock-heroic in eighteenth-century discourse in general.' Modern Language Review