An interesting new book from Andrew Bricker, Assistant Professor of English, Ghent University, and Senior Fellow at the Andrew W. Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography at the Rare Book School at the University of Virginia.
Libel and Lampoon: Satire in the Courts,1670-1792 (Oxford University Press, 2022).
Libel and Lampoon shows how English satire and the law mutually shaped each other during the long eighteenth century. Following the lapse of prepublication licensing in 1695, the authorities quickly turned to the courts and newly repurposed libel laws in an attempt to regulate the press. In response, satirists and their booksellers devised a range of evasions. Writers increasingly capitalized on forms of verbal ambiguity, including irony, allegory, circumlocution, and indirection, while shifty printers and booksellers turned to a host of publication ruses that complicated the mechanics of both detection and prosecution. In effect, the elegant insults, comical periphrases, and booksellers’ tricks that came to typify eighteenth-century satire were a way of writing and publishing born of legal necessity. Early on, these emergent satiric practices stymied the authorities and the courts. But they also led to new legislation and innovative courtroom procedures that targeted satire’s most routine evasions. Especially important were a series of rulings that increased the legal liabilities of printers and booksellers and that expanded and refined doctrines for the courtroom interpretation of verbal ambiguity, irony, and allegory. By the mid-eighteenth century, satirists and their booksellers faced a range of newfound legal pressures. Rather than disappearing, however, personal and political satire began to migrate to dramatic mimicry and caricature—acoustic and visual forms that relied less on verbal ambiguity and were therefore not subject to either the provisions of preperformance dramatic licensing or the courtroom interpretive procedures that had earlier enabled the prosecution of printed satire.
Some early reviews:
“Grounded in enterprising archival scholarship and skilled interpretation of verbal irony, this book is a major contribution to scholarship on literature and law during the golden age of satire.” - Thomas Keymer, Chancellor Henry N.R. Jackman University Professor of English, University of Toronto
“Andrew Bricker’s supple and energetic Libel and Lampoon can be read – and with profit – as an entertaining account of a long game of whack-a-mole, in which courts and comedic expression, lugubrious legality and satiric mockery, chase one another through the presses, pages, pamphlets, and poetry of post-Restoration England, each shaping and reshaping the other in a constant and dizzying display of creative interpretive adaptation.” - Christopher Tomlins, Elizabeth Josselyn Boalt Professor of Law, Berkeley Law
“Libel and Lampoon will change the way we think about satire—both its literary history and its generic ambiguity—while revising our understanding of the history of libel law and the freedom of the press more generally.” - Helen Deutsch, Professor of English Literature, UCLA
More about the book here from the publisher's website. Order online at www.oup.com/academic with promo code AAFLYG6 to save 30%.