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The Politics of Irony in American Modernism$
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Matthew Stratton

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780823255450

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823255450.001.0001

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The Focus of Satire

The Focus of Satire

Public Opinions of Propaganda in the U.S.A. of John Dos Passos

(p.101) 3 The Focus of Satire
The Politics of Irony in American Modernism

Matthew Stratton

Fordham University Press

This chapter demonstrates how widespread anxieties about the disappearance of satire echo parallel discourses about the disappearance of irony; it does so to show that satire provides a key heuristic for understanding intersecting debates about rationality, aesthetic affect, and embodied responses to the corruption of journalism and the rise of corporate and state propaganda. Drawing on sources ranging from U.S. Senate hearings and journalistic exposés to seminal debates about the nature of information and “the public” in the 1920s and 1930s, from the philosophy of Theodor Adorno, John Dewey, and Walter Lippmann to John Dos Passos’s U.S.A. trilogy, I argue that his novels are a simultaneously new and old form of satire relying upon aesthetic affect to disrupt the interests of those who control the means of information production.

Keywords:   Satire, irony, public opinion, propaganda, John Dos Passos, Walter Lippmann, John Dewey

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