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"A bull is a ludicrous jest": fable and the satiric bite in Arbuthnot's <i>John Bull</i> pamphlets

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Abstract

Historians interpret Arbuthnot&#8217;s John Bull pamphlets as a satire on the 1712 crisisof the Spanish Succession, and contend that the pamphlets function as satirebecause they borrow from the genre of fable. This generic borrowing, historiansargue, works to attack specific targets &#8211; here, the Dutch and the English Whigparty. Literary critics, however, in contrast to historians, doubt whether satire&#8217;sdependence on other genres functions so straightforwardly. This chapter readsthe John Bull pamphlets in the light of recent theory about satire&#8217;s rhetoricalinstability, and demonstrates that Arbuthnot&#8217;s imitation of fable works not as areliable indicator of his political allegiances, but rather as a means to trick andthereby admonish his readership.

References

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