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Satire is an art form with which people, events or conditions are criticized, mocked or denounced. Typical stylistic devices of satire are exaggeration as exaggeration or understatement as deliberate trivialization into the ridiculous or absurd. Usually satire is a criticism from below (citizen's feeling) against above (representation of power) preferably in the fields of politics, society, economy or culture.

Term and origin of the word

In the older meaning of the term, satire was only a mocking poem that thematized conditions in linguistically exaggerated and mocking form. Historical names are also mock script , spiked script and pasquill (satirical diatribe directed against people).

The word satire comes from the Latin satira , which in turn comes from satura lanx and means 'bowl filled with fruit'. In a figurative sense, it can be translated as 'colorfully mixed all sorts'. In earlier times satire was wrongly attributed to satyr , hence the older spelling Satyra .

Satirical drawing from 1806 shows Napoleon as the baker of his allies and Talleyrand , who is already kneading new dough.
Different roles 1814, Napoleon is pushed into the “oven of the allies” by Blücher and Woronzeff.


Satire can be understood as follows:

  1. Menippe satire ( Menippos )
  2. Verse satire (fragmentary already in Ennius, Lucilius actual creator)
  3. Estates satire (Middle Ages)
  4. Fool's Literature (Renaissance)
  5. Picaresque novel (baroque)
  6. Literary satire (romanticism)
  7. Philistine satire or philistine satire (romanticism)
  8. Scholarly satire
  9. socially critical and political satire (19th and 20th centuries)
  • a single artistic work that makes use of the satirical spelling or belongs to the genre.

As satire refers to an operation that satirical works already for neutral, objective observation or description.

Satirical notation

There are nearly as many determinations of satirical notation as there are satirists, and no determination applies to the entirety of satires. Their objects, means and functions change in the course of history. It is therefore impossible to make a sharp distinction between comedy , parody and polemic .

Satire can have the following functions (not all of them have to be the same in individual cases):

  • Criticism : According to Schiller , satire contrasts deficient reality with an ideal.
  • Polemics: one-sidedness, partiality, agitation up to aggression .
  • Didactics : direct or indirect intention to teach and improve.
  • Entertainment : Proximity to forms of comedy and parody, from which it differs in its critical attitude.

The satire often makes use of exaggeration ( hyperbole ), contrasts contradictions and values ​​in an exaggerated way ( bathos ), distorts facts, compares them mockingly with an ideal state ( antiphrasis ) and exposes their subject to ridicule. Her stylistic devices include parody, travesty and parody to their intonations irony , mockery and sarcasm . To the extent that satire appeals to an ideal, it can also make use of pathos .

An important form of satire is the satirical novel , in which satire appears as a fictional narrative . The form of the travelogue in the first person or a travelogue in the third person is very common here , with the main character often appearing very naive (see narrative perspective ). Either the main character's naive expectations of the world can be contrasted with the reality they are experiencing, or the world they have traveled through can satirically contrast with other forms of literary or philosophical representation of the world.

Satire often appears as a means of polemics . In public debates and scholarly dispute it can be a means to expose an opponent. She does not attack directly with factual arguments, but goes the indirect way of contrasting, in which the listener or reader the contrast between reality and ideal becomes apparent. In this function she is part of the art of fighting ( eristics ). The potential for aggression and proximity to violence in satire are consistently reflected in the old European tradition.



Menu table satire

The oldest and at the same time most long-lived sub-genre of satire is Menippe satire . The ancient defined it first purely formally by the combination of verse - and prose Gasket ( prosimetrum ). After the Roman polyhistor Marcus Terentius Varro , who imported the prosimetric form (not the content) into Roman literature, it is also known as Varronic satire .

It is named after the Greek Cynic Menippos of Gadara (3rd century BC), from whom no writings have survived. He is said to have brought cynical criticism ( diatribe ) into literary form with a mixture of seriousness and comedy, of wit and derision, in dialogues and parodies .

The formal freedom of the Menippea was soon reinterpreted as freedom in terms of content and style. Outward formlessness, free changing of tones and perspectives became flexible means for her to tell the truth through ridicule, parody and irony.

The Syrian Lukian of Samosata (2nd century AD) was the first writer to refer to Menippus when he wrote satirical works in this free form. In his comical conversations with the dead , which imitate a now lost script by Menippus, Menippus himself appears as a figure. A classic example of the Menippea is Seneca's Apocolocyntosis ("gourd"), a diatribe about the late Emperor Claudius , as well as Petron's Satyricon .

The Menippea revived in the Renaissance . In 1581 the humanist Justus Lipsius published his work Satyra Menippea: Somnium, sive lusus in nostri aevi criticos , it was the first work title after antiquity to refer to this generic term. In 1594, a joint work by four educated Parisians was created in Paris, which denounced the rulers under the title La Satire Ménippée (encyclopedias use this title until 1750). Further literary examples include François Rabelais ' Pantagruel (1532) and Gargantua (1534), Johann Fischart's Geschichtklitterung (1575/90), Laurence Sternes Tristram Shandy (1759–1767), Des Luftschiffers Gianozzo Seebuch by Jean Paul (in Titan , 1800– 1803) or the wonderful story of BOGS the watchmaker (1807) by Clemens Brentano and Joseph Görres .

Northrop Frye suggested that the Menippea should be classified as a large literary form alongside other forms of prose . Michail Bachtin (1987) sees in it the principle of the carnival that carries the culture , which plays a central role in the popular cultures of Europe and can also be found in literature.

Lucili, Horace, Juvenal satire

Roman antiquity

The Romans attributed the satire to the mocking verses of the Roman poet Lucilius . Quintilian's proud sentence: "Satura quidem tota nostra est" ("The satire is, of course, entirely ours", Institutio Oratoria X, 1) shows how important this literary genre appeared to the Romans: this was the only one they had not adopted from the Greeks . Lucilius' satires in verse thus marked in the 2nd century BC An emancipation from poetry, which had been influenced by Greek until then. However, this only refers to the verse satire (in dactylic hexameters ), also called Lucilian satire .

Lucilius was a writer of rank and financial independence; only in this way could he dare to mock public figures. Many of his ridicule poems were originally published individually when they related to current political events. In epigrams and dialogues, they mock the Roman business world and life in Rome, human vices , superstitions and diseases, they draw wives and affairs in a biting tone, and teach about language, orthography and poetry.

Horace referred to Lucilius as a predecessor by titling his satires like this one as Sermones and writing them in strict hexameters. They make the philosophical claim to name the vices in the world which are responsible for the strife in the world: greed, adultery, superstition, excess, etc. The themes are thus similar to those of Lucilius' satires, but less sharp in tone; Because of his less influential position, Horace was forced to point out the weaknesses of people in himself or in deceased people - or in those who could not be dangerous to him.

Stylistically, a distinction is made between Horatian satire (joking and comical) and juvenal satire (punitive, pathetic). These generic terms existed well into the late 18th century and were common distinctions in literary practice and in literary history ; Even Friedrich Schiller made a distinction between the "laughing" and the "pathetic" satire (in On Naive and Sentimental Poetry ). As a result of Goethe's momentous reorganization of literature into epic , lyric and drama , the ancient distinctions lost their importance for contemporary literature.

"Satura" ("filling", "mixture") was originally the title of a collection of poems by Ennius , which is not itself satirical. As "saturae" are also called comedic song and dance performances in Livy , which he wanted to trace back to the Greek satyr plays . Lucilius himself initially referred to his satires as "ludus ac sermones" (games and written works, dialogues), but for the first three centuries both terms were used side by side until the malicious cycle of 16 satires by Juvenal in the 2nd century AD. the term "satura" for a literary work of satirical content finally prevailed.

middle age

Estates satire
Hare roast the hunter on a spit, copperplate engraving by Israhel van Meckenem , 15th century

Medieval satires and humanism tended to be conservative, convinced of Christian values ​​and the correctness of the class structure . Because they represent the irrevocable sinfulness of man and can work towards improvement, they belong to Christian didactics .

In the Middle Ages satire therefore usually occurs as stalls Satire on. Based on the hierarchical feudal order, she criticizes violations of professional duties and every kind of violation of the social order created by God. This includes the rebellion of the lower classes (peasants), but also the cruelty of the nobility or the sinful light-heartedness of the clergy.

Another form is the animal pose, such as Reineke Fuchs (different versions). Animal fable and Schwank were fused into a literary "mirror" that compares the moral depravity of the courtly world with the courtly ideal. The animal poem can also be understood as a parody of the court epic , whose heroes embodied these ideals.

Humanism and renaissance

Fool literature
Mardi Gras and Passion Play
Illustration from the Ship of Fools : Von vnnutzē buchern - about the one who owns many books and neither reads nor understands them, just dusting them off

It was not until the development of modern individualism in the Italian Renaissance that “modern” satire emerged as a corrective: the joke becomes a weapon. Burckhardt described 15th century Italy as "a school of blasphemy (...) like the world has had no other since then" ( Die Cultur der Renaissance , 1860). The spectrum of satirical writings in Italy ranged from the comedies of the Commedia dell'arte to the learned jokes , the facetiae , which were collected and analyzed by philologists .

The parody of the solemn and the sublime was in full bloom; the joke of a Teofilo Folengo or a Pietro Aretino was notorious. The versatile Aretino wrote comedies that mocked aristocratic life in Rome. In his almost 3,000 letters and mixed up writings, he practices his art of spontaneously - often opportunistically - formulating a pointed remark on any subject, especially against anything pedantic and pathetic.

In Germany the situation was different. The satires of humanism mostly belong to the genre of fool literature . Sebastian Brant's Ship of Fools (1494) and Erasmus von Rotterdam's Praise of Folly (1509) and Julius in front of the closed heavenly door (1514) stand almost seamlessly in the tradition of the Middle Ages; they are mainly aimed at the humanistic criticism of the customs and vices of contemporaries, which they strive to improve with didactic rigor. Especially the ship of fools found readers and imitators in Latin translation all over Europe.

The folk books Till Eulenspiegel (circa 1510) and Die Schiltbürger (1598) followed a different tradition: that of the court jester or rascal who plays tricks . Political ridicule against the rulers and the ruled can be found on stages and at popular festivals in carnival games and burlesque . Some satirical passion plays have also been preserved.


Pope caricature of the Reformation period
Caricature of Martin Luther from the time of the Reformation

The Reformation discovered satire as a journalistic means of polemical agitation in the dispute over Christian doctrine. Depending on the religious affiliation of their authors, the satirical pamphlets and leaflets were directed against the Catholic Church (Erasmus, Ulrich von Hutten , dark man letters ) or against the representatives of the Reformation ( Thomas Murner ). Both the conflicting groups and, for the first time, their individual exponents were the target of satirical attacks. The Pope as a donkey or a dragon, Johannes Eck as a pig, Thomas Murner as a cat, or the theologian Lemp as a vicious dog and, in contrast, Luther as a seven-headed monster ( Hans Brosamer ) or the devil's bagpipes.

In many cases, with recourse to biblical situations, there was an update of the day's events. Figures of the Apocalypse were provided with the papal insignia, the whore Babylon wears the tiara , instead of Babylon the September Bible depicts the decaying sin Babylon Rome.

Pictorial satires of the Reformation period were published and distributed in large numbers and in a variety of original and, above all, crude folk specimens. Nevertheless, the caricatures were often published anonymously for reasons of self-protection. There are reports of prison sentences for draftsmen, printers and colporteurs for their "diatribes".

In Bern it was not sermons but the anti-Catholic Carnival Games by Niklaus Manuel that helped the Reformation to break through.


Picaresque novel
Alamode satire

Even in the Baroque era, satires served to criticize the courtly world and contemporaries by emphasizing the perversity of the contemporary world and comparing it with the ideal of Christian morals, respectability and virtue. A representative example of this is Moscherosch's novel Truehftige Gesichte Philander von Sittewalt (1646), who wanted to expose the frozen representational gestures of the nobility with bitter mockery. It was also believed that insomnia and melancholy could be cured by means of cheerful writings , for example through humorous-satirical collections such as the Curious Speculations on Sleepless Nights ( Johann Georg Schmidt , 1707).

Illustration by Grandville to a French edition of Don Quixote from 1848

Among the best known today satirical novels of the Baroque include Grimmelshausen outstanding Simplicissimus Teutsch (1668/1669) and Christian Reuters Schelmuffsky (1696/97), both - each have very different ways - the comic-satirical tradition of the picaresque novel or picaresque novel can be assigned . Also Andreas Gryphius ' piece Horribilicribrifax (1663) is one of Ideengut in this list. Their role model, however, is the most monumental work of baroque satire, Cervantes' parodistic novel Don Quixote (1605–1615). Schelmuffsky in particular develops a comical height that was perhaps only reached again with Gottfried August Bürger's adaptation of the adventure stories of Baron Münchhausen (1786). However, the adventures of the cursing and rebellious Schelmuffsky had little effect during the author's lifetime and were only rediscovered by the German Romantics around 1800 .

Another important phenomenon is the so-called alamode satire ( French à la mode = fashionable, newfangled) or language satire : many authors - at that time mostly bailiffs, clergymen or court clerks - were members of the patriotic linguistic societies . Their self-imposed goal was to promote literature in the German language and to cleanse the German vocabulary of foreign words. Polemical means were used to agitate against “spoilers of the language who mix the old German mother tongue with all sorts of strange words, so that they can hardly be recognized” ( Klaglied of 1638). Such polemics have titles such as Deutsche Satyra all salesmen of the German language ( Johann Heinrich Schill , 1643), or Reime dich, or I eat you: that is, to give more clearly, Antipericatametanaparbeugedamphirribificationes Poeticae or Schellen- and scolded folly of Boeotic poets in Germany ( Gottfried Wilhelm Sacer , 1673). Another important satirist of the time was Joachim Rachel , who enjoyed extraordinary popularity as a “German Juvenal”.

Since a popular literary genre was the writing of German-language rhetoric textbooks, satirical instructions on the art of speaking "à la mode" were also circulating. In the course of this collective “language work”, attempts were also made to introduce the Germanized terms “Stachelschrift” and “Stachelgedicht” for satirical writings; however, they were not widely used.

Enlightenment and romance


In the Age of Enlightenment , satire flourished as a didactic means by which the philosophical and educational goals of the Enlightenment were to be promoted. For a long time, however, criticism from the powerful was left out; especially out of fear of censorship . Gottlieb Wilhelm Rabener's satires, for example, remained “philanthropic” criticisms of violations of good taste and morality .

At the same time, the literary theoretical interest in satire developed. Johann Georg Sulzer, for example, no longer defined satire in terms of form, but in terms of content. She is required to deal with issues of social relevance , namely "any disorder of mind, taste or moral feeling"; thus it belongs to the valuable means that serve the moral improvement of the human being: “The end purpose of satire is to control the evil which it has chosen as its content, to ban it, or at least to oppose the further tearing down of it and the To put people off. ”( General Theory of Fine Arts , 1771).

The satire of the Late Enlightenment, however, also sharply criticized the ideal ideas of the Enlightenment. In Johann Karl Wezel's satirical novel Belphegor , it is the idea that what happens in the world follows a rational plan that is clearly refuted. The satires of Jonathan Swift , who criticize early Enlightenment ideals, are now also enjoying success in Germany : A Modest Proposal (1729) satirizes the idea that rational considerations could serve to alleviate human misery; in Gulliver's Travels (1726) the hero travels to some islands that are parodies of learned theories of the time.

The most well-known satirists of the Late Enlightenment include Georg Christoph Lichtenberg , who popularized the short, polished aphorism , and Jean Paul , whose entire work shows a tendency towards satire. In England satire flourished even more than in Germany; also in France with the most famous Enlightenmentists, such as Montesquieu ( Persian Letters , 1721), Voltaire ( Candide , 1759) and Denis Diderot ( Rameau's nephew , 1761–1776). Even Schiller and Goethe Xenia (1797) may be among the satirical writings; her pointed epigrams were aimed primarily at her poet colleagues and immediate journalistic opponents.

It was also Schiller who pushed satire to the edge of poetry in terms of appreciation: "Strictly speaking, (...) the poet's purpose cannot tolerate either the tone of punishment or that of amusement." ( On naive and sentimental poetry: Satirical poetry 1795) Under certain conditions, satirical poetry can still apply; depending, however, on the moral integrity of its authors: the "pathetic satire" must "flow out of a glowing impulse for the ideal"; the “laughing satire” can only arise from a “beautiful soul”. In mediocre hands, satire would become ridiculous and lose its “poetic dignity” - and consequently be excluded from “high literature”.

The literary satires of the Romantic period include Ludwig Tieck's pieces The Puss in Boots (1797), who "walks around on the roof of dramatic art, as it were" ( Friedrich Schlegel ) and The Inverted World (1798), the "play of a play" ( August Wilhelm Schlegel ) . Schlegel's concepts of romantic irony and transcendental universal poetry , which ironically repeatedly pulls the ground away from under its feet, can in the broadest sense even be counted among the satirical writing methods. It can be observed, however, that the theory and literary practice of satire diverged in Romanticism - their most productive theorists, such as the Schlegel brothers, were themselves not very active in literary terms.

In philistine satires , the good philistine citizens and their spiritual representatives (" Philistines ") were made fun of. When Clemens Brentano and Joseph Gorres , but also in Joseph von Eichendorff to find texts of this genre. Later also called philistine satire , this form has practically been used to this day.


Literature (19th century)
Time of the Weimar Republic
Charles Darwin as a monkey in an 1871 cartoon
China is modernizing . Satyrical picture No. 38, colored copper engraving for the Wiener Theaterzeitung, around 1850

Hegel's lectures on aesthetics (1835–1838) still judged the present: “Today no more satires want to succeed”. The 19th century was supposed to refute him in a way.

At first, satire increasingly disappeared from high literature in Germany. Outstanding were Karl Immermanns Epigonen (1836) and Münchhausen (1836–1839), Robert Hamerling's Homunculus (1888). Also Fontane Mrs. Jenny Treibel (1892) carries satirical traits. Satirical spellings can also be found in Wilhelm Raabe , Fritz Reuter and the conservative Swiss Jeremias Gotthelf . Great literary satires, however, originated elsewhere: with Mark Twain and Charles Dickens , Ambrose Bierce ( The Devil's Dictionary ) and Gustave Flaubert ( Bouvard and Pécuchet , Dictionary of Commonplaces ).

The 19th century was dominated by the emergence of socio-critical and political satire . Sociologically, it can be seen as a reaction to the drive for parliamentarism and democracy across Europe and the emergence of the whole spectrum of political parties . Your pioneers were Heinrich Heine , Wilhelm Hauff and Georg Weerth . In Atta Troll (1843), Heine allegorically attacked the German politics of the Vormärz . His “political poetry”, as he called it, is also directed in Germany, a winter fairy tale (1844) pessimistically against Prussian hegemony.

Light theatrical comedies became the preferred medium for satirical jokes in German-speaking countries around the turn of the century. Representative authors were the Austrians Arthur Schnitzler , Johann Nestroy and Hugo von Hofmannsthal . Even the naturalism had his satirical and socially critical dramas about Gerhart Hauptmann's The Beaver Coat (1893) and Arno Holz ' tinsmiths (1902) and the rediscovered late romantics Christian Dietrich Grabbe with his comedy Jest, Satire, Irony and Deeper Meaning (1827). From 1900 onwards, cabaret gained a foothold in German-speaking countries. Cabaret stage programs have become popular evening entertainment in the big cities and the central medium for daily criticism of politics and current circumstances.

From 1854, a federal law in Germany guaranteed freedom of the press in principle . However, complaints of "press offenses" and jail sentences for editors were common. Because of the new freedom and in spite of the close surveillance by the public prosecutor's office, numerous satirical magazines of various political directions were founded. In England, the Punch appeared in 1841 , which was also called "The London Charivari" based on the Parisian Charivari . Punch and Charivari were models for a number of German-language satirical magazines. In the year of the March Revolution in 1848, for example, around 35 of these largely very short-lived political “joke papers” appeared in Berlin alone. The richly illustrated Fliegende Blätter (from 1845) and the bourgeois-conservative Kladderadatsch (from 1848) , among others, had lasting success .

New forms of satire emerged above all in this flexible medium of the magazine . The pictorial medium, political caricature, was added to literary satire in its various forms . One innovation was the cartoon , which was created in England and was characterized by mostly non-political topics. With graphically sophisticated drawings and short, pointed dialogues, he sketched social embarrassments and comical situations. Cartoons soon became popular in German magazines; its designers included the best art nouveau graphic artists .

During the Weimar Republic from 1919 to 1933, Kurt Tucholsky and Erich Kästner (from 1927) were among the great satirists of the German language. "If someone makes a good political joke with us, then half of Germany sits on the sofa and takes it badly," said Tucholsky in 1919, describing the situation of satire that was fought by the state, the church and the conservative parties. The Viennese critic Karl Kraus , who created his own public forum for criticism of language, society and journalism with his magazine Die Fackel (1899), is still one of the most cited satirists to this day.

Also worth mentioning are Heinrich Mann's socially critical novels Professor Unrat (1905) and Der Untertan (1918), Ödön von Horváth's The Eternal Spitcher (1930) and the army-critical adventures of the good soldier Schwejk (1920–1923) by the Czech Jaroslav Hašek . At the same time, Karl Valentin and Liesl Karlstadt created their first silent films and stage programs.

Expressionism , which was critical of society , also produced the fine arts with strong satirical traits, such as the exaggerated, grotesque images of society by George Grosz and Otto Dix .

After 1933, under the dictatorship of National Socialism, satirical magazines were discontinued and writers were driven into exile . Many satirical works have fallen victim to book burnings and censorship . Some magazines, such as the Simplicissimus , continued to exist, but were brought into line and given loyal to the regime content.

The Austrian satirical magazine Die Muskete also existed until 1941. Nationalist and anti-communist traits had never been alien to it; nevertheless it was co-opted for National Socialism, which had also ruled Austria since 1938. The title page of the last issue from 1941 adorned a red-cheeked girl in peasant costume with a German shepherd dog .

In the Soviet Union, the satirical newspaper articles, caricatures, novels and plays approved by the censors were directed against opponents of the regime, including tsarist emigrants , priests and believers of the Orthodox Church , as well as against inefficient "bureaucrats" and alleged "loafers". The satire was thus an element of the propaganda and denunciation system of the party leadership.

In the USA, however , satirical novels flourished: the immensely educated Vladimir Nabokov , the sarcastic Sinclair Lewis and the travel writer Evelyn Waugh are considered outstanding.

After 1945

Since 1945
New Frankfurt School

After the Second World War , it was the so-called New Frankfurt School that dusted off German satire and led it to new heights. The common forum was primarily the satirical magazine pardon (1962). Because the publisher changed the course of the magazine, pardon employees founded the satirical magazine Titanic in 1979 , which still appears monthly. The history of the Titanic in particular shows that even in the Federal Republic of Germany, satire is not allowed to do everything ; The Titanic was sentenced several times to the court to pay pain and suffering.

In the GDR , the magazine Eulenspiegel was published from 1954 onwards , which is still published today, but has changed significantly since the fall of the Wall, especially stylistically, and in many aspects it is similar to the Titanic .

In Germany, based on sales figures, however, the bourgeois satires of Ephraim Kishon and Loriot were more successful than the Neue Frankfurter Schule . Novels with satirical traits come from, among others. Wolfgang Koeppen ( Das Treibhaus , 1953), Martin Walser ( Marriages in Philippsburg , 1957), Günter Grass ( The Tin Drum , 1959). Although they can also be read as portraits of society, they still have clear features of the pointed satirical representation of the world. However, the satirical novel was unable to re-establish itself as a literary genre.

There were several (short-lived) satirical magazines in Austria . In the 1950s it was the flare , from 1982 to 1985 the Watzmann , at the same time the balloon and in 1997 the Simplicissimus . The Rappelkopf since 2009 .

If you can speak of satirical movements , you will find them especially in France. Around 1900 Alfred Jarry invented the parodic science of pataphysics , which was resumed in 1948 when the Collège de 'Pataphysique was founded. The art movements of Surrealism , Dada and the Situationist International can also be shown to have satirical traits if their ironic, playful and humorous tendencies are emphasized.

Since 1945

Artists, press products, authors and broadcasts from the post-war period (after 1945), which can mainly be assigned to satire:

people Press Websites broadcasts

Satire in film

Satire is also relatively common in film. Although it can hardly be regarded as an independent film genre, it is still a component of many films that have been criticized, such as B. on society.

Charlie Chaplin was one of the first to take the feature film seriously as a satirical medium. With Modern Times (1936) and The Great Dictator (1940) he created satirical masterpieces; at the same time, it was his first films that directly attacked current political conditions. Other important representatives of film satire were, among others. Luis Buñuel , Billy Wilder , Stanley Kubrick and Robert Altman .

Film examples:

Satire in 20th and 21st Century Literature

Book satire has a long history and looks back on a long series of works that extend to the present day. Due to postmodernism and the increasing dominance of film and television, "pure" satire in book form is less common, but is still cultivated and further developed by lovers of the subject because of its great potential for criticism. Examples:

Satire in Science

Report From Iron Mountain

In 1967, the writer Leonard Lewin, under the pseudonym LL Case, made use of science by claiming in the non-fiction book Report From Iron Mountain on the Possibility and Desirability of Peace that leaked documents show that 15 of the most important American scientists were involved in the The result was that only war could keep "economy and science, society and state alive" and would be "the main driving force for the development of science at all levels". The book developed into a bestseller and was discussed seriously for several years until Lewin confirmed in 1972 that it was intended as a hoax and that he was the author. Between 1967 and 2008 the book appeared in 52 editions and four languages.

Ig Nobel Prize

Since 1991 is the Ig Nobel prize awarded, as anti- Nobel Prize called. A satirical award to honor scientific achievements that "make people laugh first, then think". The prize is awarded by the Cambridge (USA) journal Annals of Improbable Research . The awards have been presented at Harvard University since 2012 .

The Sokal affair

In 1996 of which was designed also as a hoax physicist Alan Sokal in the journal Social Text published articles Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity , to German about: exceed the limits: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity . Sokal had noticed over the years that various authors from the schools of philosophy and sociology repeatedly used concepts, models and terms that are precisely defined in physics without sufficient evidence of their own analogies or parallels. The article was formulated in postmodern jargon and pretended to interpret quantum gravity as a linguistic and social construct , with quantum physics supporting postmodernist criticism. Sokal had deliberately interspersed numerous logical and content-related errors that the journal's editors - they had not called in any physics experts for the final editing - did not, however, notice.

As a result, the affair caused a dispute over intellectual standards in the social sciences and humanities and numerous other publications. In Elegant Nonsense , Sokal and Jean Bricmont expanded his satirical criticism: “Perhaps [the authors] think they can use the prestige of the natural sciences to give their own discourses a touch of precision. And they seem to trust that no one will notice their misuse of scientific terms, that no one will shout out that the King is naked. "

The conceptual penis as a social construct

With the help of their essay The conceptual penis as a social construct , which the philosopher Peter Boghossian and the mathematician James Lindsay submitted and published under pseudonyms at Cogent Social Sciences under the keywords gender studies and feminism , the two wanted to prove how well Well-reputed journals publish articles that are devoid of any scientific basis under certain circumstances. The selection of the academic field was made on the basis of the often absurd articles and that there “often overcomplicated words are used and there is a strong moral bias, which often regards masculinity as the root of all evil. And that it is pretty easy for contributions with this choice of words and bias. "

Satire and justice

Header of the satirical magazine Simplicissimus from 1906

The history of the legal restraint of satire is the history of censorship until the mid-19th century .

Press law has existed in Germany since 1854 , which in principle guarantees freedom of the press . Again and again it was restricted by legal regulations, for example

This particularly affected the satirical magazines, which shot up like mushrooms after the introduction of press law. Each of their expenses was checked for legal violations by the prosecutor ; Trials were the order of the day. It was therefore customary for magazines to have a seat editor who went to jail in the event of an indictment so that the editorial staff could continue to work.

During the time of National Socialism , the critical political satire was banned completely from the public (see also Press in National Socialism ). Means for this were among other things the editors' law (passed on October 4, 1933, entered into force on January 1, 1934), "Black Lists"; In addition, politically dissenters were persecuted, put under pressure (threats, e.g. threats of violence), persecuted, criminalized and deprived of their freedom (by imprisonment or by being taken into “ protective custody ” outside the normal legal system - see also Concentration Camp # 1933 until 1935 ). Quite a few were also murdered. A well-known example: Erich Mühsam (1878–1934), he published from 1931 to 1933 under the pseudonym “Tobias” political-satirical articles for the Ulk (the weekly supplement of the Berliner Tageblatt ), was arrested by the SA shortly after the National Socialist seizure of power in 1933 and murdered by SS men on July 10, 1934 in Oranienburg concentration camp after more than 16 months of “protective custody” .

Situation in West Germany 1949–1990 and in reunified Germany

In the Federal Republic of Germany, satire is protected by freedom of expression ( Article 5, Paragraph 1 of the Basic Law ) and freedom of art ( Article 5, Paragraph 3 of the Basic Law). However, these compete with the general right of personality ( Art. 2, Paragraph 1 in conjunction with Art. 1, Paragraph 1 of the Basic Law), which ensures that the individual is allowed to determine how he or she presents himself in public.

Satire can be art, but it is not necessarily so. In order to be protected by artistic freedom , it must - from a purely legal point of view - have a creative design, i.e. be recognizable as a fictional or caricature-like representation. If this is not given - or if it is not recognized by the court - the right of personality applies .

In court, the essence of a satire's message and its artistic clothing must be dealt with separately. Both must be checked to see whether they violate personal rights. If untrue statements are not recognizable as fictitious or caricature-like representations, freedom of expression is not protected; the satire can then be understood as " defamatory criticism " and thus as defamation in which the right of personality takes effect. "There can only be talk of abusive criticism if the statement no longer focuses on the argument in the matter, but on defamation of the person who, beyond polemical and exaggerated criticism, is to be personally belittled and, as it were, pilloried." a judgment of the Federal Court of Justice .

A ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court in 2005 determined that satirical photomontages are also subject to the protection of freedom of expression and artistic freedom - but only if they can be recognized as fictitious or caricature-like representations.

Both against Eulenspiegel , pardon as against Titanic and Nebelspalter many suits were filed in the past. Titanic in particular is known for exhausting legal leeway with its satire. From 1979 to 2001 a total of 40 lawsuits were brought against Titanic and 28 issues were banned; Compensation payments and court costs brought the booklet to the brink of bankruptcy. The taz and its most prominent satirical author Wiglaf Droste also often had to defend themselves in court.

The online satirical magazine ZYN! the legal difficulties were limited to problems related to trademark and name law . Companies like Opel, for example, protested against naming their brand in a parody of the news magazine SPIEGEL (SPIGGL). A parody of the Bild newspaper by another online satirical magazine, however, led to a warning .


  • Burkhard Meyer-Sickendiek : Art. "Satire", in: Historical Dictionary of Rhetoric, Volume 8: Rhet-St, ed. v. Gert Ueding, Tübingen 2007, Sp. 447-469.
  • Jonathan Greenberg: The Cambridge Introduction to Satire. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge 2019 (English; partly Anglo-American perspective).

Satirical notation:

  • Mikhail Bakhtin: Rabelais and his world: folk culture as counterculture. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1987, ISBN 3-518-04708-6 .

Satire in Music:


  • Dietmar Korzeniewski (ed.): The Roman satire. Ways of research. Vol. 238. Wiss. Buchges., Darmstadt 1970, ISSN  0509-9609
  • Ulrich Knoche : The Roman satire. Scientific Ed.-Ges., Berlin 1949, Vandenhoeck Ruprecht, Goettingen 1982 (4th edition), ISBN 3-525-25319-2 .
middle age
  • Udo Kindermann : Satires of the Middle Ages. Latin and German. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2013, ISBN 978-3-534-26275-5 .
  • Udo Kindermann : Satyra. The theory of satire in Middle Latin. Preliminary study for a genre history. Carl-Verlag, Nuremberg 1978, ISBN 3-418-00058-4 .
  • Hellmut Rosenfeld: The development of the class satire in the Middle Ages. In: Journal for German Philology. Schmidt, Berlin 71.1951 / 52, ISSN  0044-2496
  • Ulrich Gaier: Satire, studies on Neidhart, Wittenwiler, Brant and on satirical writing. Niemeyer, Tübingen 1967, (without ISBN)
  • Peter Richter (ed.): Parody and satire in the literature of the Middle Ages. Ernst Moritz Arndt University, Greifswald 1989, ISBN 3-86006-008-2 .
Humanism and renaissance
  • Barbara Könneker: satire in the 16th century. Epoch - works - effect. Beck, Munich 1991, ISBN 3-406-34760-6 .
  • Georg Piltz (ed.): A sack full of indulgences. Pictorial satires of the Reformation period. Eulenspiegel, Berlin 1983, (without ISBN)
  • Herbert Jaumann : Satire between morality, law and criticism: on the debate about the legitimacy of satire in the 17th century In: Simpliciana . Berlin / Bern / Vienna 13.1991, 15, 27, ISSN  0259-6415
  • Stefan Trappen: Grimmelshausen and the Menippe satire: a study on the historical requirements of prose satire in the baroque era . Niemeyer, Tübingen 1994, ISBN 3-484-18132-X .
Enlightenment and romance
  • GWF Hegel: Lectures on Aesthetics. Volume 2: The Satire. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1835-1838. (Reclam, Stuttgart 1980, ISBN 3-15-007976-4 )
  • Kurt Tucholsky: What is satire allowed to do? In: Berliner Tageblatt. Mosse, Berlin January 27, 1919.
  • Hermann Haarmann: "Broke stares at you - completely". Satire in the Journalism of the Weimar Republic, a manual. West German Verlag, Wiesbaden 1999, ISBN 3-531-13295-4 .
  • Ursula E. Koch : The devil in Berlin. From the March Revolution to Bismarck's dismissal; illustrated political joke sheets of a metropolis 1848–1890 . Leske, Cologne 1991, ISBN 3-921490-38-3 .
  • Ben Lewis : The Weird Manifesto. Communism and satire from 1917 to 1989. Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-89667-393-0
  • Burkhard Meyer-Sickendiek: What is literary sarcasm? A contribution to German-Jewish modernity. Fink Verlag, Paderborn / Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-7705-4411-0 .
  • Patrick Merziger: National Socialist Satire and 'German Humor'. Political significance and public of popular entertainment 1931–1945. Steiner, Stuttgart 2010, ISBN 978-3-515-09355-2 .
After 1945
  • Helmut Arntzen (ed.): Gegen-Zeitung. German satire of the 20th century. Rothe, Heidelberg 1964.
  • Oliver Maria Schmitt: The harshest critics of the moose. The New Frankfurt School in words and lines and pictures. Fest, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-8286-0109-X .
  • Frank Wilhelm: Literary satire in the Soviet occupation zone, GDR 1945–1961. Authors, institutional framework and cultural policy guidelines. Kovac, Hamburg 1998, ISBN 3-86064-709-1 .
  • Sylvia Klötzer: satire and power. Film, newspaper, cabaret in the GDR. Böhlau, Cologne 2005, ISBN 3-412-15005-3 .
  • Hans Peter Muster: Who's who in satire and humor. Wiese, Basel 1989, ISBN 3-909158-50-1 (directory of cartoonists, caricaturists, press, satirical, and marginally also comic artists from 32 countries)
Satire and law
  • Mischa Senn, Satire and Personal Protection, Bern 1998
  • Elmar Erhardt: Artistic freedom and criminal law. On the problem of satirical defamation. Decker, Heidelberg 1998, ISBN 3-7685-1389-0 .
  • Sebastian Gärtner: What satire is allowed to do. An overall view of the legal limits of an art form. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-428-12669-9 .
  • Sabine Stuhlert: The treatment of parody in copyright law. A comparative study of parodies in copyright law in the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States of America. Verlag CH Beck, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-406-49786-1 .
  • Julia Wenmakers: Legal Limits to New Forms of Satire on Television. Where does the fun end with Stefan Raab and Harald Schmidt? Publishing house Dr. Kovac, Hamburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-8300-4299-0 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Satire  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikiquote: Satire  - Quotes
Commons : Satire  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. See in the appendix under Mittelalter Udo Kindermann 1978.
  2. See: Friedrich Schiller: Satirische Dichtung. In: On naive and sentimental poetry. (1795) Philosophical Writings Part 1; National edition Volume 20, Weimar / Böhlau, 1962.
  3. Christoph Deupmann: 'Furor satiricus'. Negotiations on literary aggression in the 17th and 18th centuries. Niemeyer, Tübingen 2002, ISBN 3-484-18166-4 .
  4. Brant probably planned to translate his work into Latin himself, but then assigned this task to his pupil Jakob Locher , whose work was published in Strasbourg on June 1, 1497 under the title Stultifera Navis , printed by Johann Grüninger - source: Das Narrenschiff (Brant ) .
  5. Part 1 at Google Books:
  7. Text on Google Books
  8. Ben Lewis: The Weird Manifesto. Communism and satire from 1917 to 1989. Munich 2008, p. 73.
  9. ^ Report from Iron Mountain on the possibility and desirability of peace . With introductory material by Leonard C. Lewin. Dial Press, New York 1967, LCCN 67-027553 .  
  10. Good war . In: Der Spiegel . No.  15 , 1967, p. 172 ( Online - Nov. 27, 1967 ).
  11. Iron Mountain Leak . In: Der Spiegel . December 2, 2017, p.  445 .
  12. John Kifner: LC Lewin, writer of satire Of Government Plot, This at 82. New York Times , January 30, 1999. Retrieved on 25 December 2017 (English).
  13. ^ Lewin, Leonard C. In: WorldCat . December 25, 2017, accessed December 25, 2017 .
  14. ^ Alan Sokal : Transgressing the Boundaries. Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity . In: Social Text . No. 46/47 , 1996, pp. 217-252 , doi : 10.2307 / 466856 ( online [accessed December 25, 2017]).
  15. German translation from Eleganter Nonsense
  16. Mara Beller: Who did we laugh at? In: The time . No. March 13 , 1999 ( online [accessed December 25, 2017]).
  17. ^ Alan Sokal , Jean Bricmont : Elegant nonsense. How postmodern thinkers abuse science . Beck , Munich 1999, ISBN 3-406-45274-4 , pp. 20th f., 23 (French: Impostures intellectuelles . Paris 1997. Translated by Johannes Schwab and Dietmar Zimmer).
  18. ^ Jamie Lindsay, Peter Boyle: The conceptual penis as a social construct . In: Cogent Social Sciences . tape 3 , no. 1 , 2017, doi : 10.1080 / 23311886.2017.1330439 (English, PDF; 464 kB [accessed on November 26, 2017] The study was accepted, but is fictitious. Behind the work are the philosopher Peter Boghossian and the mathematician James Lindsay. As they later announced, they endeavored to write an “absurd paper in the style of post-structuralist, discursive gender theory.” The study was withdrawn.).
  19. Leonie Feuerbach: "The conceptual penis causes climate change" . In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . May 29, 2017 ( online [accessed December 25, 2017]).
  20. Axel Bojanowski : Researchers fool journal with nonsense study. Spiegel Online , May 23, 2017, accessed December 25, 2017 .
  22. BGH, judgment of December 7, 1999 , Az. VI ZR 51/99, full text.
  23. BVerfG, decision of February 14, 2005 , Az. 1 BvR 240/04, full text.
  24. ↑ The following article outlines numerous processes: Absolutely tasteless. In: Der Spiegel. No. 37 of September 13, 1999.
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on November 10, 2005 .