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Final Project: Swift’s Satires

For my final paper, I want to write about the allegorical and satirical aspects of Jonathan Swift’s works–with particular (if not complete) focus on Gulliver’s Travels–to draw some conclusions as to his opinions on social, political, and even literary issues in eighteenth-century Great Britain. In addition to the main focus Gulliver’s Travels, I might also want to consider–briefly and comparatively–works such as A Modest Proposal, Drapier’s Letters, An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity, and A Tale of a Tub, among some other potential candidates. Though I really haven’t gotten very deep into this project, I feel that it will be very easy to find examples of social and political satire in Swift’s works. A quick search on JSTOR spat out a few dozen results pertaining to Gulliver’s Travels and ‘satire’ and there were still more relating to ‘Swift’ and ‘political.’ Having read some of the other works I mentioned above, I do not think it is too much of a stretch to assume I will find some more good info when I do some searching on them. A Modest Proposal, for instance, suggests that poor Irish parents could alleviate themselves of economic hardship by selling their children to the rich, who would use them as food. I think literary criticism should also be fairly easy to identify, at least in Gulliver’s Travels, which, having been published just a few years after Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, parodies that kind of “traveller’s tale” and directly refutes Defoe’s optimistic view of humanity. In terms of the actual conclusions I want to draw with my paper, they remain to be seen. Generally, I tend to develop a specific thesis during my writing process; I start in a direction, and as I research and rearrange and synthesize more information, a thesis tends to emerge from the facts. So, for now it looks something like this: “The allegorical and satirical elements of Jonathan Swift’s work in the eighteenth century point to his view that…”

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2 thoughts on “Final Project: Swift’s Satires

  1. I feel like this topic has a lot of promise. There are certainly many examples of satire in Swift’s writings. I feel like you will have to draw from his other works as well as Gulliver’s Travels. This paper should be a really good look at the opinions of the time period. It is going to be difficult to put yourself into the place of a common person (that the satire would relate to) and understand their struggles and the issues of that day. I’m sure there are satires in Swift’s works that would go over most of our heads, as they do not apply to our time period. Inferring Swift’s opinions about these issues might also prove difficult. I believe that an artist can satirize something without actually believing it to be wrong or evil. For instance, a cartoonist could be pro-Obama, but still make cartoons satirizing his actions. This makes it difficult to generalize someone’s opinion based on one pointed satire. Regardless, I feel that this paper will be a very interesting read. Good luck!

  2. JAMESCOUGAR,
    This topic certainly offers you a variety of directions you can take this project. I’m initially concerned that it might be too big in its scope. Even with solely focusing on the two Swift texts that we have studied this semester, the issue of satire and what that reveals about Swift’s opinion offers nearly endless routes to be pursued. I might encourage you to decide one particular element of satire that you are going to address.

    I’m eager to see how your thesis comes to form — please don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like to discuss this further. .

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