Article published in:Changing Genre Conventions in Historical English News Discourse
Edited by Birte Bös and Lucia Kornexl
[Advances in Historical Sociolinguistics 5] 2015
► pp. 223–250
Playing upon news genre conventions
The case of Mark Twain’s news satire
Mark Twain’s famous hoax articles, such as “Petrified Man” (1862) and “A Bloody 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 satirical magazine Private Eye or the American spoof newspaper The Onion, most of these inaugural forms were not based on actual events. Instead, they created entirely imaginary situations so as to feed the readers’ thirst for shocking sensations while satirising their manias. Interestingly, Twain’s made-up stories propagated massively due to the readers’ credulity. This paper aims at examining this particular facet of the great American writer’s production, in particular the linguistic and discursive strategies he uses in mixing fact and fiction, in playing with frames of reference and in exploiting the readers’ interpretive expectations. For this purpose, a Model of News Satire is applied to a corpus of spoof news articles by Twain in order to test the occurrence of three components – the intertextual, the critical, and the comic. In particular, the model offers an analysis of the structure and style of the texts, of the butts they target, and of the script oppositions they trigger, the overall combination of which amounts to a specific textual genre: that of news satire.
Keywords: 19th-century news satire, comic incongruity, hoax, humour, Mark Twain
Published online: 24 July 2015
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