Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Mary Hocks - Chair

Second Advisor

Lynée Lewis Gaillet

Third Advisor

Elizabeth Sanders Lopez


Satire might not inspire physical action—the physical act of picking up a sign to picket the government—but it moves an audience towards a state of mental action by confronting audiences with the interdictions and iniquities it fears the most. The rhetorical qualities of satire need to be acknowledged to fully understand how satire functions. To look at an example of contemporary satire, like The Onion, and see how it functions as a tool to create knowledge, three concepts can be borrowed from the rhetorical tradition: (1) Plato’s dialectic as a rhetorical model for Donald Griffin’s “Rhetoric of inquiry and provocation” ; (2) Aristotle’s means of persuasion and Han Tzu’s recognition of the imbalanced power-dynamics inherent in discussing dissentient views to see how satire’s audience and its controversial or unmentionable content is inextricably intertwined, making humor a satirist’s primary mean of persuasion; and lastly, (3) the Sophists’ understanding of situational truths and how it informs the cultural standards and institutions that satire contends. A satirist wishes to create, through the use of laughter, a space for questioning the worst qualities of society and humanity, provoking inward reflection in order to challenge the cultural rationalization that informs societal behavior.