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Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal (1667-1745) - b.1667 of English parents in Dublin, Ireland - divided his time between London and Ireland (he served.

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Presentation on theme: "Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal (1667-1745) - b.1667 of English parents in Dublin, Ireland - divided his time between London and Ireland (he served."— Presentation transcript:

1 Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal ( ) - b.1667 of English parents in Dublin, Ireland - divided his time between London and Ireland (he served Sir William Temple in London as a secretary, reading, writing, and tutoring Esther Johnson who would become “Stella” in Swift’s work) - having completed an MA at Oxford, Swift later moved back to Ireland (near Belfast) in 1694, taking a prebend at Kilroot (a stipend paid to a parson) - in 1696, Swift moved back to Temple’s estate (called Moor Park), though Temple died in 1699 (Swift would write that he was “unprovided both of friend and living” - as such, he moved once again back to Dublin, taking up another prebend (at St. Patrick’s) - Swift made several trips back to London and was slowly making his name in literary circles (with Addison and Steele, for example) , publishes Tale of a Tub, a highly satiric attack on the contemporary intellectual scene (Swift’s name was not attached to the satire)

2 St. Patrick’s Addison and Steele (famous as essayists and publishers of Tatler and the Spectator

3 Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal - though Swift’s initial literary recognition came from Whig circles, he would later gravitate towards the Tory wits (Swift himself was an Anglican and was intolerant of Dissent, particularly individual “enthusiasm”: a fanatical belief in personal inspiration and revelation) - Swift befriended and benefited from Lord Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford; by 1711 Swift was enjoying success in London, could afford to concentrate on his writing (mostly political and religious tracts), and had met John Dryden - in 1714, however, the Tory government under Queen Anne fell to a new Whig administration; Swift moved to Ireland to avoid recrimination and because his chances for preferment had disappeared - in addition to championing causes for Ireland through political prose, Swift began work on Gulliver’s Travels in 1720 (published in 1726) - a Modest Proposal appeared in 1729

4 Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal ( ) – political context WhigsTories progressive supported the power of the Parliament over the Crown; made up mostly of landed gentry and merchants (the “free trade,” mercantilists of the 17 th century) conservative supported the Crown and aristocracy; opposed military foreign policy; reached its peak under Queen Anne ( ); with Robert Harley as “prime minister” “Whig” is not because they wore wigs – it’s more likely derived from the Scottish whiggamor, a peasant farmer, used in the 17 th century to identify dissenters the Glorious/Bloodless Revolution of 1688 put William of Orange in power and deposed James II (for his overtly Catholic views); from this split the Tory and Whig parties solidified long period of power under Sir Robert Walpole ( ) accession of George III (3 rd in the Hanoverian line) brings Tory control in 1760

5 WhigsTories Addison and Steele Swift Dryden Pope Finch Pope Behn Montagu (Whig family) Horace Walpole ( ) Thomas Shadwell

6 Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal - Swift’s most enduring legacy is that of “misanthrope”: one who distrusts, dislikes, and thus avoids “mankind” - however, Swift’s supposed misanthropy should be understood in the context of his work as a satirist and also balanced by knowledge of his good works (he fought for justice in Ireland, gave substantially to charity, and also carried on deep, personal relationships throughout his life) - as a satirist, Swift worked out of “fierce indignation” (the classical idea that what fuels satire is not dislike for an individual, but rather knowledge of an injustice which the satirist believes needs correcting) - in this sense satire serves an important political and social purpose; its aim is to identify and correct the ills of society

7 satire as politics, as commentary (what we’ve covered) - Dryden’s satire of Shadwell (in Mac Flecknoe) – note also his rules about satire in his Essay - Pope’s satire of “women” in Epistle to a Lady and social/individual satire in Dunciad (Colley Cibber, Poet Laureate, ) - Finch – “Introduction” as satire? - Swift’s social satire in A Modest Proposal

8 satire: - makes a subject appear ridiculous (may invite scorn, contempt, indignation, along with amusement) - satiric vs. comic (satire is amusing though serious; attacks an individual or a “type”; comic evokes amusement, usually through farce) - satire looks to correct a perceived problem (comedy does not) - what forms of satire/comedy are with us today? - satire as intellectual (evidence of the intellect of the writer) - how does the heroic couplet work as part of satire? - satire as corrective (it can turn the subject’s own self-centeredness against itself; only through satire can the subject be reached) - role of the speaker: mock-heroic (unaware of his own ridiculousness) - Mac Flecknoe = indirect satire (versus direct personal address by a competent narrator/speaker) wit: - suggests an element of the comic through verbal play - wit as verbal dexterity; wit connects the intellect with the use of language


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