Summary and Keywords
Parody is the name given to a range of representational practices that involve citation of an earlier work, but an inexact citation—citation with polemical difference, always purposive, and often to comic effect. Arguments over parody as a category inevitably establish a position on how specific an activity it is and how far it reaches into culture, even into the nature of language itself. Parody’s range is at times understood to be quite general; at others, it is presented as a very specific artistic process. Thus, some argue that parody is at the heart of language itself, that all language is parodic, while others limit parody to the affectionate discrepant citation of another text or work of art. Pastiche, as a subcategory of parody, generally is considered to be less polemical about its sources, less satirical, more flat, and less focused. All parody (including pastiche) is interpretive of its source, and in interpreting that source it makes an argument about that source—its features and the value of those features. In making that argument, parody establishes or reacts to a norm, a norm at times in line with a cultural dominant and at other times opposed to it. While that relationship to a norm often raises the question whether parody is inherently dispersive and liberatory or whether it exists to affirm a status quo, historical practice reveals that there is no inherence here; parody can move in either direction. Parody is always in some relation to a norm, a relationship that points to the heart of its activities: to the consequences of citation, the place of personal expression, and polemics.
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