This article questions recent arguments that “parody” is the prototypical postmodern genre, an argument which not only goes needlessly beyond the traditional definition of the term but handicaps stylisticians from distinguishing between it and its neighboring kinds of texts. Citing a variety of examples, I repeat Genette's traditional discrimination among strict parody, travesty, satiric pastiche, and pure (or nonsatiric) pastiche. I also urge the importance of distinguishing between these forms and that of satire in general, agreeing with the oft-expressed view that parody often constitutes praise for the original (in Hutcheon's phrase, parody “authorizes”the original). I am concerned that an overly expansive definition of parody may lose the crucial distinction that makes parody so important to stylisticians, namely that well-done parodies (like Beerbohm's of Henry James)are extremely informative about the features that characterize individual styles. I also question whether equating parody with “irony” or“difference” (themselves such problematic terms) helps much in our understanding of it. Finally, I propose that stylistics should not limit itself unduly to the study of forms. Often the most telling clue in a parody is the imitation of subject matter, but subject matter so handled as to point to the preoccupations of the author of the original.

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