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Spring Symposium on UR and Community Engagement has ended
Tuesday, April 24 • 10:55am - 11:15am
Thoughtful Laughter: Satire And Fantasy As Social Commentary In Terry Pratchett's Discworld

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Historically, literary scholars typify the fantasy genre as little more than escapism, allowing audiences to put down their briefcases and pick up a broadsword. Satire is generally more palatable, less of a broadsword and more of a rapier, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the all-too comfortable. British fantasy author Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series wields one in each hand, creating a unique “jokes and daggers” world of hilarious hijinks and sobering social commentary. Pratchett’s work is also a major seat of contention as it is both critically acclaimed and dismissed for the debated literary merit of the fantasy genre. Common discourses include Pratchett’s pairing of “low-brow” humour and social critique, and the depth and purpose of his characters in their comedic, satirical setting. The objective of this paper is to examine Pratchett’s particular platform of fantasy and satire from which social criticisms are voiced, with specific focus given to the role one of his most popular characters, Death, plays in this commentary. A non-human, anthropomorphic personification of the act of dying, Death provides a unique outsider’s perspective of humanity. While the Discworld is populated with a number of fascinating non-human entities (such as The Luggage, a sentient trunk both fiercely loyal and eerily homicidal), Death possesses a certain grandfatherly fascination and fondness towards humans; the conflation of Death’s purpose and his personality manifests as an unmistakably Horatian satirical voice. Thus, Pratchett’s manipulations of fantasy and satirical conventions create meaningful dialogue with his audience about belief, identity, and duty (and moral obligation) through Death. Pratchett exemplifies the progressive potential of the fantasy genre, using complex interplay between the “real” and “unreal” to successfully enable his audience to both recognize and question ideological superstructures.


Tuesday April 24, 2018 10:55am - 11:15am
232 Karpen Hall

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