Satirical Essay Assignment

Purpose and Goals:

The goal of this assignment is for you to gain a deeper understanding of how the conventions of the essay can be exploited for satirical purposes. The ultimate purpose of satire is usually to improve society. Instead of stating his or her views directly, however, the satirist adopts the opposite position to the one he or she actually holds. A satirical essay that proposes that recycling be made illegal, for instance, forces readers to recognize the importance of recycling. An essay praising corporate greed could force readers to confront the downsides of capitalism.

Genre Conventions:

  • Topic and Strategy
    • Your topic should reflect an idea, belief, tradition, issue, or practice about which you are passionate
    • What kind of strategy best fits the message at the heart of your satire?
      • You might invert a widely held system of values
      • You might make what appears to be a serious defense of something absurd
      • You might exaggerate a political or philosophical position to its most extreme form
      • You might propose an unnecessarily complex solution to a simple problem
      • It is possible to employ multiple strategies throughout your essay, but one should predominant
    • Structure
      • What kind of structure best enables you to execute your strategy?
        • You might structure your essay chronologically
        • You might disrupt linear chronology using flashbacks
        • You might discuss a series of anecdotes or examples of a common theme
        • You might pose a central question, then explore possible answers
      • Your structure should be clear, consistent, and appropriate to your topic
      • Each paragraph should fit into your overall structure
    • Style
      • What kind of voice is most appropriate to your topic?
        • First-person: Are you an eye-witness?
        • Second-person: Do you want to implicate the reader directly?
        • Third-person: Is your topic somewhat abstract? Or do you want to maintain distance from it?
      • What tone best fits your topic?
        • Playful, gently mocking, “Horatian”?
        • Biting, acerbic, “Juvenalian”?
        • The tone of your essay should not shift abruptly, unless it does so deliberately


This assignment will comprise 5% of your total grade for the course. You will be graded on these four areas:

  • Topic and Strategy—30%
  • Structure—30%
  • Style—30%
  • Grammar and Mechanics—10%

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