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parody,

mocking imitation in verse or prose of a literary work. The following poem by Robert Southey was parodied by Lewis Carroll:
"You are old, Father William," the young man cried;
  "The few locks which are left you are gray;
You are hale, Father William—a hearty old man;
  Now tell me the reason, I pray."
"In the days of my youth," Father William replied;
  "I remembered that youth would fly fast,
And abused not my health and my vigor at first,
  That I never might need them at last."
Southey, "The Old Man's Comforts and How He Gained Them"
"You are old, Father William," the young man said,
  "And your hair has turned very white,
And yet you incessantly stand on your head—
  Do you think at your age it is right?"
"In my youth," Father William replied to his son,
  "I feared it might injure the brain;
But now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
  Why I do it again and again."
Carroll, "Father William"
Parodies have existed since literature began. Aristophanes brilliantly parodied the plays of Euripides; Cervantes's Don Quixote (1605–15) parodies chivalric romances; Henry Fielding's novel Joseph Andrews (1742) parodies Samuel Richardson's moral novel Pamela (1740); and Max Beerbohm's A Christmas Garland (1912) wickedly parodies such authors as Kipling, Conrad, and Henry James. Noted 20th-century parodists include Ogden Nash, S. J. Perelman, Robert Benchley, James Thurber, E. B. White, and Woody Allen.

Parody

 

in literature and, more rarely, in music and the representational arts, a comical imitation of an artistic work or group of works. Usually, parody depends on a deliberate disparity between the stylistic and thematic levels of an artistic form.

There are two classic types of parody (sometimes referred to as special genres): the burlesque, in which a vulgar subject is presented in a lofty style (A. Tassoni’s The Rape of the Bucket and V. I. Maikov’s Elisei…), and the travesty, in which a lofty subject is presented in a vulgar style (L. Pulci’s Morgante maggiore and N. P. Osipov’s Vergil’s Aeneid Turned Inside Out). Ridicule may be focused on both the style and the theme—on techniques of poetry that are hackneyed and remote from real life, as well as on aspects of reality that are vulgar or unworthy of poetry. It is sometimes very difficult to distinguish parodies of style from parodies of theme. For example, Russian humorous poetry of the 1850’s and 1860’s exposes and condemns the system of that period, using stylistic devices borrowed from A. S. Pushkin and M. Iu. Lermontov. The poetics of a specific work is open to parody, as are genres, entire literary schools, and world views. (Examples of each of these types of parody are found in the works of Koz’ma Prutkov.) Depending on the character of the comic element, parody can be humorous or satiric, or it may belong to one of many gradations between these categories. Usually, parodies are short; however, longer works may contain many parodic elements (for example, Rabelais’s Gargantua and Pantagruel, Voltaire’s The Maid of Orleans, M. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin’s The Story of a Town, and Joyce’s Ulysses).

The first examples of parody date from antiquity (the Battle of Frogs and Mice, sixth century B.C.). During the Middle Ages, parodies of biblical and liturgical texts were common. Later, the transition from one literary period or school to another (Renaissance, baroque, classicist, romantic, realist, modernist) was usually accompanied by a flurry of parody on both sides.

In Russian literature of various periods, the most characteristic examples of parody were created by A. P. Sumarokov, A. A. Shakhovskoi, N. A. Polevoi, I. I. Panaev, V. S. Kurochkin, D. D. Minaev, V. S. Solov’ev, and A. A. Izmailov. The most famous parodies in Soviet literature were written by A. G. Arkhangel’skii, A. M. Argo, and A. B. Ruskin. Similar to parody, but lacking a direct, comical tone, are works marked by a disparity between style and theme. For example, Pushkin’s “southern poems” are thematically similar to Eugene Onegin. However, such phenomena have not been sufficiently studied and are rarely referred to as parodies.

In the theater, the circus, and estrada (the variety stage), parody depends on the audience’s familiarity with the parodied subject. There have been special theaters of parody, such as the Krivoe Zerkalo (Distorting Mirror). Among the many operatic parodies is J. Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera. Nineteenth-century operettas, especially works by F. Hervé and J. Offenbach, are outstanding for their brilliant parodic and satiric tone. In the Soviet estrada, A. I. Raikin, S. V. Obraztsov, G. M. Dudnik, and E. A. Arnol’dova have presented parodies. Among the outstanding performers of parody in the Russian and Soviet circus are V. E. Lazarenko, S. S. Al’perov and Bernardo, B. P. Viatkin, D. S. Al’perov and M. P. Kaliadin, Eizhen and Lepom, and Karandash. A number of parodic motion pictures have been made (for example, Lemonade Joe, 1964, the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic).

TEXTS

Russkaia literaturnaia parodiia. Edited by B. Begak, N. Kravtsov, and A. Morozov. Moscow-Leningrad, 1930. (Contains a bibliography.)
Mnimaia poeziia. Edited and with an introduction by Iu. N. Tynianov. Moscow-Leningrad, 1931.
Russkaia stikhotvornaia parodiia. Introduction and notes by A. A. Morozov. Leningrad, 1960.

REFERENCES

Tynianov, Iu. N. Gogol i Dostoevskii (K teorii parodii). Petrograd, 1921.
Tomashevskii, B. V. Teoriia literatury: Poetika, 6th ed. Moscow-Leningrad, 1931.
Berkov, P. N. “Iz istorii russkoi parodii 18–20vv.” In the collection Voprosy sovetskoi literatury, vol. 5. Moscow-Leningrad, 1957.
Morozov, A. A. “Parodiia kak literaturnyi zhanr.” Russkaia literatura, 1960, no. 1.
Rassadin, St. “Zakony zhanra.” Voprosy literatury, 1967, no. 10.
Freidenberg, O. M. “Proiskhozhdenie parodii.” In the collection Trudy po znakovym sistemam, vol. 6, fasc. 308. Tartu, 1973.

M. L. GASPAROV (literature)

parody

a musical, literary, or other composition that mimics the style of another composer, author, etc., in a humorous or satirical way
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