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Literary dunces are persons, either real or legendary, who are used in literature as targets of satire. This usage of the term derives from Alexander Pope's landmark poetic satire, The Dunciad, and the category is to be used specifically for figures used as dunces by 18th-century British satire (in the standard literary-historical sense of the "long" 18th century, 1660–1800).

Also for early 19th-century authors who used the same general terminology (e.g., Lord Byron and Samuel Taylor Coleridge who knew and used Pope's category). Dunces are not villains, although they can be villainous, as much as they are held up as the epitome of stupidity, imposture, and connivance. Membership in this category does not imply that the figure was a dullard. In fact, the opposite is likely true, as these figures needed to rise to a position of importance to be satirized in this way. Instead, these are figures who were satirized particularly as symbols of all things "wrong" with society or a particular political position. Unfortunately, in some cases it has overshadowed their merits.


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