Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Dale Rigby (Director), Dr. Jane Fife, Dr. Deborah Logan

Degree Program

Department of English

Degree Type

Master of Arts


On the eve of the Second World War, high school English teacher Leon Ormond writes about a minor skirmish he has with a history teacher over the pedagogical usefulness of wit. After telling her about his book, Laugh and Learn: The Art of Teaching with Humor, she tells him, “Only morons laugh.” Ormond goes on to describe her as one who exhibits “a countenance curiously reminiscent of an ancient Greek tragic mask”—she was “an exemplary member of the Cult of Pedagogic Pallbearers.” Although educators, historically, have often frowned upon humor, humorous writing—especially satirical writing—helps students understand the fundamentals of rhetoric and composition in a way that is both engaging and intellectually demanding. While often misunderstood within the larger culture, and perhaps equally underused in academic culture, satiric writing can be a creative and critical heuristic for the learning and practice of various rhetorical principles in the introductory composition classroom, an alternate discourse that can teach fundamental communication concepts while challenging mainstream thinking. Chapter one explores various historical, theoretical, and pedagogical concerns about the use of humor. Chapter two outlines a positive case for the inclusion of satiric writing in college composition. Chapter three describes my own efforts at teaching satire in four introductory composition classes at Western Kentucky University. An appendix examines the difficult relationship between the satiric genre and the once dominant school of literary criticism known as New Criticism, focusing on New Critic Robert Penn Warren’s work with seventeenth-century satirist, John Marston.


English Language and Literature | Rhetoric and Composition