Mock-heroic is the exemplary genre of the English Augustan era: it is one of the few genres that the Augustans invented themselves, and it stands in a symbolic relation to a culture still reverential of the grandeurs of the classical past and uneasy about its ability to emulate them. Mock-Heroic from Butler to Cowper shows the protean nature of mock-epic at this time.
It recounts the rise of mock-heroic, discusses the properties of the form, and explores its relation both to classical epic and to contemporary genres such as the poetic travesty and the novel.
It also tracks the relation of mock-heroic to the concept to the sublime, especially to the low sublime unwittingly perfected by Richard Blackmore. Terry goes beyond previous commentators in arguing that mock-heroic was not merely a conventional genre, but also provided a supple discourse through which writers could represent a range of personal and social issues.
He identifies mock-heroic properties in the Mandevillian discourse of economics and in the rhetoric of male gallantry towards women, in which women were simultaneously elevated and put down.
He also sees mock-heroic as informing the idea of divine grace in the poetry and letters of William Cowper. Mixing a historical approach with incisive close readings, Terry provides a powerful re-evaluation of the form.