The Oxford Book of Parodies is remarkable for the skill of its parodists and for the literary distinction (or lack thereof) of the individuals parodied. Targets include Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Robert Burns, Longfellow, Bret Harte, Henry James, W. B. Yeats, W. H. Davies, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, D. H. Lawrence, Ernest Hemingway, R. S. Thomas, and J. K. Rowling—a rich range of British, Irish, and American authors. The only disappointment is the near absence of material from Australia, where parody is so revered that it enjoys special legal protection from anyone who might sue the author.

Parodies please for many reasons. Sometimes they are funny, whether in content or as mockery of an author. They can also be an exercise in skilful imitation and distortion of an original that makes us smile in appreciation, but smile without laughter.

Some of the parodies included here have a serious purpose, as in the case of the Sokal...

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