Playing upon news genre conventions

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Mark Twain’s famous hoax articles, such as “Petrified Man” (1862) and “ABloody Massacre near Carson” (1863), are forerunners of a genre – news satire –which blends together social criticism, humour and intentional deception.Unlike the present-day fake news press, represented e.g. by the British satiricalmagazine Private Eye or the American spoof newspaper The Onion, mostof these inaugural forms were not based on actual events. Instead, they createdentirely imaginary situations so as to feed the readers’ thirst for shockingsensations while satirising their manias. Interestingly, Twain’s made-up storiespropagated massively due to the readers’ credulity. This paper aims at examiningthis particular facet of the great American writer’s production, in particular thelinguistic and discursive strategies he uses in mixing fact and fiction, in playingwith frames of reference and in exploiting the readers’ interpretive expectations.For this purpose, a Model of News Satire is applied to a corpus of spoofnews articles by Twain in order to test the occurrence of three components –the intertextual, the critical, and the comic. In particular, the model offers ananalysis of the structure and style of the texts, of the butts they target, and of thescript oppositions they trigger, the overall combination of which amounts to aspecific textual genre: that of news satire.


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