Menippean (or Varronian) satire is a kind of satire, usually in prose, that is characterized by attacking mental attitudes rather than specific individuals or entities. It is named after Menippus, its originator, who was a philosopher and a Cynic of the 3rd c. Bc. He satirized the follies of men (including philosophers) in a mixture of prose and verse. He was imitated by Varro (thus this type of satire is sometimes called Varronian) and also by Lucian – especially in his Dialogues.
The classic example of this genre in European literature is Satire Ménippée, a pamphlet in prose and verse which ridiculed the États généraux of 1593 and was published in 1594. It was written by Jean Leroy with the assistance of Jacques Gillot, Nicolas Rapin, Pierre Pithou, Jean Passerat and Florent Chrétien. Its main features were caricature, parody, and burlesque. It has been suggested by Northrop Frye in his Anatomy of Criticism that Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) is in the tradition of Menippus and Varro. Other works which perhaps owe something to this tradition of satura or medley are Rabelais’s Gargantua and Pantagruel, Voltaire’s Candide, Thomas Love Peacock’s Nightmare Abbey, Aldous Huxley’s Point Counter Point and After Many a Summer, and a number of other intellectual charades and fantasies which, through debate and dialogue, serve to ridicule different intellectual attitudes and philosophical postures.