Fenwick Parody Exhibit Imitates No Other

Posted: September 29, 2003 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

It’s funny how similar the parody of Kahlil Gibran’s book, The Prophet, is to the original. The Profit, published in California, uses the same colors and type fonts and is filled with the same erotic and sensual images of women and men as in the original work, only this time the images have commercial and inappropriate details slipped in–god and goddess-like women and men barbecuing or advertising a product. Thus, a parody is born.

Books such as The Profit are currently on display at the Fenwick Library in an exhibit of parodies on loan to the library from Roger Lathbury, professor of English. The exhibit, which will be ongoing through the end of October, includes classic parodies such as Bored of the Rings, inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy; Ptomaine Street, inspired by Sinclair Lewis’ best-selling novel Main Street; and Growl, inspired by beat writers of the 1960s and ’70s and especially Allen Ginsberg’s poetry collection, Howl.

In addition, the display includes the parody Shamela by Henry Fielding, imitating Samuel Richardson’s Pamela. Published in 1741, one year after Pamela, it is thought to be the first book to parody another.

“Parody is an intuitive kind of judgment. It’s a way of responding to a book or piece of writing with the enthusiasm of imitation yet of drawing back to see not only what something is but also what it is not,” says Lathbury. “If it’s an effective parody, the result gives as much pleasure, in a different but related way, as the original.”

The Special Collections and Archives division of the George Mason libraries displays two book exhibits each semester. Following the parodies exhibit, Special Collections will design an exhibit honoring the 40th anniversary of George Mason’s student newspaper, Broadside. Staff members are also planning a larger exhibit for next fall that will look at the 40th anniversary of the Fairfax Campus. This exhibit will include oral histories, construction plans, film, and photographs and will be displayed in the Johnson Center.

For more information about the collections and exhibits in the libraries, visit the Digitized Archives web site.

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