Jonathan Swift Lecture

okay and our second author this week is

Jonathan Swift he was the master of

satire in an age when satire was one of

the leading forms of literature so we'll

take a look at modest proposal as an

example of that first a little biography

as you may have read already in the

Norton he was a member of the Irish

ascendancy that's the privileged

privileged class that supported the

English to run that the English

supported to run their colony in Ireland

his father died before he was born and

his mother moved back to England and

left him to be raised by an uncle in

Ireland he became a priest of the Irish

Church took a doctorate and ultimately

became Dean of st. patricks in Dublin

this was a position of exile in some

ways for Swift because he was part of

the Anglo Irish Protestant minority and

it didn't give him a great deal of power

but actually put him in what he

considered a backwater in fact he was

bitterly disappointed that he didn't get

more support from the court William and

Mary gave him some support but Queen

Anne when she came to the throne

disliked him and was happy to have him

stuck away in Ireland in 1713 with

Alexander Pope he formed the scribblers

Club and there wrote many of his great

satires but it was you know members

competed to write the wittiest satires

and so he had an audience for his

writing and of course he became very

politicized and wrote many political

pamphlets the arguing for a Tory that is

a conservative position although his toy

position was was anarchic almost it was

destructive he was writing then in the

age of the Augustine's they called

themselves that because they identified

with Caesar Augustus of Rome and the

great classics of literature written by

Horace Virgil and others they valued in

their writing order decorum wit Samuel

Johnson is the key example of the

Augustine's love of border and decorum

they also valued reason and they saw

theirs as the age of the Enlightenment

so this speaks also not only to the to

the writing of the time but to the rise

of science and commerce in this age it

was also a great age of pamphlets and

this was the result of the Licensing Act

that lapsed in the late 1600s and that

meant that there was a little regulation

on on print and what people printed and

so there was a lot of anonymous

pamphlets published in which people

skewered each other in fact a modest

proposal was first an anonymous pamphlet

it wasn't didn't have Swift's name

attached to it so let's talk about a

modest proposal this is an example of

juvenalian satire that's opposed to the

other satirical form called Horatian

juvenalian satire is bitter ironic it's

full of invective it's angry and based

in moral indignation and this comes from

the Latin satirist juvenile who wrote in

the first century and critiqued his own

age in time and the institutions of Rome

the text demonstrates Swift's very

conservative views as I said he was a

Tory and he was writing as the Whigs

were becoming powerful in England this

pamphlet demands justice and justice not

independence for Ireland it's a country

filled with suffering for persecution

but he didn't think it would do any good

for the country to be independent so

let's just touch on a key critiques that

are present in the proposal then I just

want to focus really on the critique of

science Swift skewered the Anglo Irish

landlords because they extracted wealth

from Island and never put money back

into the country they spent it elsewhere

and the text invites us to sympathize

with the poor but it's important to

remember that Swift was a conservative

and he didn't have a great deal of

sympathy for the poor he was more

appalled by the landlords than he was

sympathetic for the sufferers and he was

very critical of the Irish

he describes the Irish as begging

thieving wife-beating and this is also

in his sermons not just in this text a

text and ultimately this sad

sort of plays off of the old slurred

that the Irish devour each other and

this is repeated that you might want to

know in James Joyce's portrait of the

artist in the 20th century so it's an

ongoing slur that about the Irish and

something you should definitely consider

in an Irish Lit class finally Swift is

always aware that satire does not affect

any great change in society and for this

you might want to also look at the

YouTube video I put up I don't know it's

YouTube Jon Stewart talking to the BBC

for about satire along with other

satirist so our age okay so I want to

look specifically at Swift's mocking of

18th century science and commerce a

modest proposal is written in the

persona of an English economist someone

who embraces the rationalist principles

of Adam Smith and free enterprise which

are coming to the fore in the 18th

century and it's important that you

realize that it's not entirely likely

that Swift would have approved of such a

persona this is a social science

scientists but it allows him to skewer

enlightenment fascination with numbers

and scientific logic and the modern

science in general and the rise of

commerce so he's kind of setting himself

up to critique the upper classes through

a persona that he doesn't admire either

so he's kind of letting everybody have

it in this text it might help you to

consider what David Cody another scholar

says about Swift and science he points

out that he lived in a time when a great

deal of what passed for science was at

best pseudoscience so he was not anti

intellectual but he was passionately

opposed to the useless follies of

charlatans quacks cheats speculators and

virtuosa and so it's most likely that

the persona who's offering this modest

proposal is just one of these charlatans

I mean clearly he's proposing state

pawns sponsored cannibalism so he's not

someone swift is likely to admire but in

creating this persona Swift can mock not

only the English landlords and the Irish

poor but also then the pseudo scientists

of his day

so here's a couple examples than of what

I'm talking about we see him skewering

scientists in their science in various

ways consider for example this quote

from the text the number of souls in

this kingdom being usually reckoned at 1

million and a half of these I calculate

there may be about two hundred thousand

couple whose wives are breeders from

which number I subtract thirty thousand

couples who are able to maintain their

own children although I apprehend there

cannot be so many under the present

de-stresses of the kingdom but this

being granted their women and hundred

and seventy thousand breeders so my

question is how is this mocking

pseudoscience and clearly it's mocking

this sort of fascination with numbers

and in quantifying and categorizing

things but you could also probe it more

deeply and capture the ways in which the

his mockery is present or consider

another quote where he's listing the six

benefits of his proposal and this is

clearly pseudoscience or pseudo reason

you choose first and I've cut this down

considerably for first it would greatly

lessen the number of Papists or

Catholics secondly the poor attendants

will have something valuable of their

own which by law may be liable to

distress and help to pay their landlords

rent thirdly the nation's stock will

thereby be increased fifty thousand

pounds per annum

besides the profit of a new dish

fourthly the constant breeders will be

rid of the charge of maintaining them

their children after the first year or

sorry maintaining them and I put in

their children so in other words you see

this list of benefits as if it's

perfectly reasonable mocking reason

because clearly these reasons are absurd

oops so I ended so let me just say then

that as we talk about Jonathan Swift on

the discussion board it'll be useful to

perhaps tease out the various ways he

uses language and style to either mock

the upper classes which as I said is

this sort of key thrust of the argument

or critiques reason

science okay see you on the discussion