Topic: Skill: Recognising the demands of a task


Coursework task 6

I’ve partly completed task 1.

Read Jonathan Swift’s famous eighteenth-century satirical pamphlet, A Modest Proposal\ Then, watch this clip from the BBC’s political satire The Thick of It, written by Armando Iannucci.

Make comparative notes on the two, considering:

• What are they satirising? • Why are the writers/makers using satire (consider the historical and social context)?
• What methods do they use to satirise (consider things such as form, narrative voice, structure, etc)?
• Why is the chosen medium (literature versus visual media/performance) appropriate?

Could A Modest Proposal be adapted for performance, and could The Thick of It be adapted for print? Why or why not?

Jonathan Swift wrote perceptively about the emerging commercial society in Britain in the early eighteenth century. Swift suggests in Modest Proposal selling their children as food to rich gentlemen and ladies. This satirical piece of work mocked the heartless attitudes towards the poor, as well as British policy toward the Irish in general. Swift was satirizing the stingy British approach to dealing with their; ‘poor’ Irish subjects.
The Thick of It satirizes the inner workings of the modern British government, with the focus on the fictitious Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship. In the clip provided. Fictional MP Rt Hon Peter Mannion brief is to launch an Apps initiative in a local school but, the press conference shows him to be wholly out of touch with the subject. Mannion suggests a scheme that the children create Apps for free in which the government would benefit. Essentially free child labour.
Both have an idea, a ‘scheme’ to improve things. But, both satires show how out of touch the political class and Elite are with the ‘people’.
Swift initially makes us believe that he is serious. It is only when we realise how repugnant his proposition is that we realise it is satire, but, it makes us reflect on how easily it is to be convinced by political arguments, concepts or slogans that sound logical but are devoid of substance and reality.
Satire is a crucial political tool and an essential component of any free nation. It’s an important element of a strong democratic nation to be able to criticize, mock, and even make fun of their leaders if we are to retain a government that is truly reflective of the people. Jonathon Swift used his wit to challenge the British government and the British people for neglecting those under their rule. In this sense, The Modest Proposal has a connection. In the thick of it uses The Thick of It uses the form of a mock-documentary. Both use satire and wit to show how inept governments can be.

Could A Modest Proposal be adapted for performance? Perhaps, but the wit, irony, sarcasm, and satire work well in writing form. And allows Swift to get away with more than he could in a public performance at the time. While The Thick of It relies heavenly on character reaction, improvisational moments and visual gags, therefore making it much effective as a performance. Perhaps, what one could take from both satires pieces, comedy can be closer to the truth than we would always like to openly admit…

Skill: Recognising the demands of a task (Part 2) Reflect back on the Skill highlighted on the previous page. Can you identify how the skill has changed? Here are some prompts: Compare and contrast the frames for analysis used in both Coursework Task 5 and Coursework Task 6. • How does the form (medium) differ in each case: the cartoon, the written extract, the video clip? What sorts of signifying codes are at work in each? • How is meaning forged synchronically and diachronically in each medium? • In what way might the terms thesis and antithesis be valuable tools in exploring how potential meaning is forged? • How does unpicking the tasks shed light on the ways satire works as a mechanism?