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Swift - Gulliver's Travels > Week 1: Letter… - Part 1, Ch. 4

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message 1: by David (last edited Jul 22, 2020 07:40AM) (new)

David | 2710 comments I have to admit, I have never read this book and my experience so far has been as a young person and only with parts of the first chapter in Lilliput. I suspect I am not alone. For that reason I will remind everyone, NO SPOILERS please.

Right from the start the letter sets a decidedly adult reforms. Gulliver seems to hope his book achieves some pretty lofty goals. Are they realistic? Keep these in mind when reading Gulliver’s account of his adventures.
1. Party and faction were extinguished.
2. Judges learned and upright.
3. Pleaders honest and modest, with some tincture of common sense, and Smithfieldd blazing with pyramids of law books.
4. The young nobility’s education entirely changed.
5. The physicians banished.
6. The female Yahoos abounding in virtue, honour, truth, and good sense.
7. Courts and levees of great ministers thoroughly weeded and swept.
8. Wit, merit, and learning rewarded.
9. All disgracers of the press in prose and verse condemned to eat nothing but their own cotton, and quench their thirst with their own ink.
10. These, and a thousand other reformations, I firmly counted upon by your encouragement; as indeed they were plainly deducible from the precepts delivered in my book.

Keeping in mind that a surgeon at the time was still much closer to the barber who was entrusted to perform certain small surgeries, is there anything remarkable about Gulliver’s station or profession in life? In line with this is the description, or lack of description Gulliver gives of himself. He seems to give a pretty good description of of people and things in his environment, but not of himself. He is an average Englishman, with an education, and is somewhat of an unobserved observer. How is this important in how we can relate to and rely upon Gulliver?

I found his name does seem to be derived somewhat from, gullible. Does gullibility and possibly his scientific education make him a bit of an objective onlooker describing things at face value? Do these characteristics of Gulliver allowing Swift to wink and cover for satirizing the political climate?

I suspect if as a youngster I was not reading an edition that was "edited for my protection", the great flood that occurs when Gulliver relieves himself would have made me laugh and I might have read a little more. I am glad to be catching up now. How about you?


message 2: by David (last edited Jul 21, 2020 08:19PM) (new)

David | 2710 comments From our discussion in the Schedule and Background topic. How can we best relate to these opening chapters from the perspective of the many categories this book spans?

1. Novel
2. Satire & Political Parody
3. Children's literature
4. Science Fiction
5. Parable
6. Fantasy/Adventure Fiction
7. Utopia/Dystopia
8. Post (?)-Colonialism
9. Environmentalism
10. Humor - help us get the more obscure jokes.

I will start things off with the following element from the perspective of science fiction. A note from the Asimov edition discusses the sort of ointment very pleasant to the smell, which in a few minutes removed all the smart of their arrows.
It is part of the stock in trade of the science fiction writer to allow strange peoples convenient advances in science when it helps smooth the progress of the plot. It would have been most inconvenient if Gulliver had developed an infection, and Swift was not the kind of writer who would simply ignore the matter.



message 3: by Aiden (new)

Aiden Hunt (paidenhunt) | 253 comments In the instance of category 1. Novel, I’d like to expand on comments made in the Discussion Schedule. Debating what properly constitutes the “modern novel” doesn’t seem useful to me since the difference between fiction and non-fiction is a much more important distinction than constantly-changing form and structure categories.

Swift played with the boundaries between fiction and non-fiction by writing GT as a parody of the sensationalist, often factually-questionable, travel literature of his day. Though GT’s authorship would be in no doubt by 1735 when it was included among Swift’s collected works, the text was originally published under the pseudonym Lemuel Gulliver, the fictional captain. Swift sets the serious tone almost immediately with his letter to the publisher-cousin.

At a time when the modern realist novel was gaining force, how do you think Swift’s presentation of his satirical journeys as real contributed to his intended goal of opening people’s eyes to humanity’s flaws? Alternatively, how do you think GT influenced burgeoning realist novelists to likewise show humanity in all its folly?


message 4: by David (new)

David | 2710 comments Don Quixote, published in 1605, is generally considered the first novel. If this is the case, by the time of Gulliver's Travels, published in 1726, the novel had been around for 121 years.

So my question is, what general characteristics of a novel does Gulliver's Travels satisfy or not satisfy? Length, prose, perspective, story, complexity, fiction, etc?


message 5: by Aiden (new)

Aiden Hunt (paidenhunt) | 253 comments David wrote: "Don Quixote, published in 1605, is generally considered the first novel. If this is the case, by the time of Gulliver's Travels, published in 1726, the novel had been around for 121 years.

So my q..."


I have no problem calling GT a novel, though I pretty much refer to all literature as “text” these days. My interest is the ways in which GT is different (or unusual) in relation to other fiction. To me, one way would be that when it was published, Swift was so successful in his satire as to make people believe it was a real “travel novel” of the time.

They were called travel novels, but normal ones were ostensibly true. Swift parodied them to the extent of having the frontispiece of the original edition made to resemble a travel novel, rather than a work of fiction and including a preceding “Note to the Reader” about Gulliver’s background:

”This plain, matter-of-fact narrative, immediately following the frontispiece and foreword, is said to have deceived some readers into believing they were being offered a true story. One sea captain claimed to be ‘very well acquainted with Gulliver, but that the printer had mistaken, that he livd in Wapping, & not at Rotherhith [i.e. the Redriff of the portrait and foreword]’. An old gentleman searched for Lilliput on his map. Best of all, an Irish bishop report- edly preened himself on not being taken in, having been taken in to the extent that he thought he was meant to be taken in. He proudly declared that he thought the ‘book was full of improbable lies, and for his part, he hardly believed a word of it’.”
-from Introduction to the Oxford World Classics edition.


message 6: by Lia (last edited Jul 22, 2020 02:00PM) (new)

Lia Pretty sure The Golden Ass is generally accepted to be a novel and much older than Don Quixote or Genji Monogatari or GT.

People often miss the nuance when philosophers, theorists etc discussed Don Quixote as the first modern novel, in the sense that it’s the first novel that reflects the subjectivity and psychology and attitude presumed in a modern subject. The main point is that it’s modern, though the “novel” form is probably theoretically significant in that milieu because Hegel declared “The novel is the epic of a world that has been abandoned by God”. That is, novel is the epic proper to a godless modernity.


message 7: by Mike (new)

Mike Harris | 76 comments I will claim this follows understand Science Fiction since now it is science fact. In computer memory there is a term called endianness which refers to the order in which a sequence of bytes is represented in memory. Say you had the hex value 0x12345678, if you were on a big-edian system this would be represented in memory as 12 34 56 78, but if you were on a little-edian system this would be represented as 78 56 34 12. With big-edian we have decreasing numeric significance, whereas with little-edian we increasing numeric significance. The terms big-edian and little-edian come from the conflict between the sects of Lilliputians in Gulliver's Travels.


message 8: by David (new)

David | 2710 comments Mike wrote: "I will claim this follows understand Science Fiction since now it is science fact. In computer memory there is a term called endianness which refers to the order in which a sequence of bytes is rep..."

Thanks Mike, that is interesting. I have been in IT for nearly 32 years and I never come across these terms before.

From a perspective of satire, what does the Endian debate on the virtues of breaking eggs by the small end vs the large end correspond to in English life; what is the point Swift is trying to make?


message 9: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments David wrote: "Thanks Mike, that is interesting. I have been in IT for nearly 32 years and I never come across these terms before...."

I suspect you have, just one of those many arcane pieces of jargon encountered and then forgotten if not used in one's own work. But the concept was pretty much Computer 101 or maybe 201 -- at least for those of us who created computer hardware manuals. (Don't ask me to explain its significance to processing speeds/hardware architecture.)


message 10: by Mike (last edited Jul 23, 2020 06:30AM) (new)

Mike Harris | 76 comments David wrote: "From a perspective of satire, what does the Endian debate on the virtues of breaking eggs by the small end vs the large end correspond to in English life; what is the point Swift is trying to make?"

When I read about this I think of Henry VIII and the English Reformation. I think there is significants to Swift having the conflict start with the king and his personal life, to me this reads very similar to Henry VIII desire for an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon and the Pope Clement VII denying him this annulment. This political differences between Rome and England lead to the English Reformation.


message 11: by Susanna (new)

Susanna | 163 comments Mike wrote: "I will claim this follows understand Science Fiction since now it is science fact. In computer memory there is a term called endianness which refers to the order in which a sequence of bytes is rep..."

Does the order of the numbers matter, or is it just convention? Some rules do matter, such as on which side of the road you drive. There is nothing intrinsically better about driving on the right side, but, in America, it would be chaos if some chose to drive on the left side. However, how you break your egg has no significance for society. Swift was trying to get people to think about which rules matter, and which don't.


message 12: by Mike (new)

Mike Harris | 76 comments Susanna wrote: "Mike wrote: "I will claim this follows understand Science Fiction since now it is science fact. In computer memory there is a term called endianness which refers to the order in which a sequence of..."

The endianness of a computer system matters a great deal, it has a direct impact on how the underlining hardware is architected. Big-edian is used by messages send through the Internet. Big-edian is also used by IBM mainframes, most likely because the early mainframe system were programmed at the lowest level (assembler) so a human would have to look at values stored in memory (someone would expect to see 12 34 56 78 in that order for the value 0x12345678). Little-edian are used by more modern computer architectures (PC, cellphones, ...) because it is more efficient for operations like addition (example adding 12 34 to 56 78 you would add 34 with 78 and then 12 with 56 and the carry).

Endianness of a computer system does matter, whereas endianness of breaking an egg does not matter to most people, except in this case the king. This sense of endianness I read as more similar to Henry VIII and the English Reformation.


message 13: by David (new)

David | 2710 comments He seems to be criticizing differing orthodox religious preferences as trivial ones that should be determined by the individual. . .
the words are these; That all true believers shall break their eggs at the convenient end: and which is the convenient end, seems, in my humble opinion, to be left to every man’s conscience. . .
. . .but instead they create religious factions that in turn become politicized and lead to war
Now the Big-Endian exiles have found so much credit in the Emperor of Blefuscu’s court, and so much private assistance and encouragement from their party here at home, that a bloody war hath been carried on between the two empires for six and thirty moons.



message 14: by Hollyinnnv (new)

Hollyinnnv | 60 comments Some things about Swift that may help in reading GT:

Religion was very contested in Swift’s time and completely intertwined with politics. In general, the Church of England considered itself very different than Catholics and Protestant sects like Quakers/Presbyterians/Methodists. Though Swift was part of the Church of England (high), he was frustrated with all sides at times. This is evident in A Tale of a Tub with the tale of the three brothers. It also shows up in GT. Some scholars believe that the Big/Little Endian debate refers to the differences between Catholic and Protestant. An emperor makes a law about how to break eggs. Swift writes of “one Emperor lost his Life and another his Crown.” This almost surely refers to Charles I and James II. For a memory refresher- the English Civil (Religious) Wars start in 1642. Charles marries a Catholic and has politically Catholic leanings. This (and other things) leads to his execution by the protestants in 1649. Then we have Cromwell’s Protestant regime. Charles II’s (who was probably Catholic) Church of England reign. Then poor James II tried to do the Catholic thing again and was chased out of England after only a couple years. The regime changes were marked by hyper-religious conflict.

Around the same time Swift wrote GT, he was working on two other texts that will be important to thinking about GT. Swift wrote Proposal for Correcting the English Tongue. Swift and several other writers like Alexander Pope and Samuel Johnson (of dictionary fame) thought that additions and subtractions to language were going to pervert the language so badly that nobody would be able to understand “their English” in the not too distant future. Therefore, Swift wrote this text, and here’s a tiny excerpt:
"How then shall any Man who hath a Genius for History, equal to the best of the Antients, be able to undertake such a Work with Spirit and Chearfulness, when he considers, that he will be read with Pleasure but a very few Years, and in an Age or two shall hardly be understood without an Interpreter? This is like employing an excellent Statuary to work upon mouldring Stone. Those who apply their Studies to preserve the Memory of others, will always have some Concern for their own. And I believe it is for this Reason, that so few Writers among us, of any Distinction, have turned their Thoughts to such a discouraging Employment: For the best English Historian must lie under this Mortification, that when his style grows antiquated, he will only be considered as a tedious Relator of Facts; and perhaps consulted in his turn, among other neglected Authors, to furnish Materials for some future Collector."
http://jacklynch.net/Texts/proposal.html
In this excerpt, Swift talks of being a historian and makes mentions of the Ancients.) I do think it is funny that someone would write this text, and then write GT with words like “Big-Endian.”

The second important text was History of the Four Last Years of the Queen. https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Wo...
Swift badly wanted to be appointed official court historian. He really loved writing history-though not in the way we think of history (pesky facts); more politically-tinged glorious history the way the ancients wrote history. Swift never got the court appointment, got sent somewhere he did not want to go (Ireland), and this was one source for his powerfully sour attitude the rest of his life. It is unclear if he ever got over it. When we look at Gulliver and Lilliput, are we seeing a reflection of Swift and Queen Anne? (Don’t want to go further because of spoilers. Just think about what Gulliver does for the king, and how is he repaid.) But, look for history to come up in GT in important ways and connect with the concept of Ancients versus Moderns that I write about next.

Swift was a participant in the Ancients versus Moderns debate. He came down on the side of the Ancients. Rather than explain the debate-I’ll give you a quick link.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quarrel...
Ancients versus Moderns resounds throughout the entire GT text. To this end, Swift writes of his skepticism of science. Just one subtle example: In chapter one Gulliver states he is a surgeon. His business failed “for my Conscience would not suffer me to imitate the bad Practice of too many among my Brethren.” This is just the first salvo of many against science practitioners of bad faith that Swift makes. Watch for more.


message 15: by Lily (last edited Jul 24, 2020 10:05AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Mike wrote: "Little-edian ... is more efficient for operations like addition, ...)"

Thanks, Mike. Addition, of course, is the key computing hardware operation. I'd have to go back to computer history to speak with any certainty, but I believe manufacturers like CDC, DEC, Data General took advantage of the enhanced processing speeds (and simplicity [fewer gates, lower cost]?) long before PCs and cellular. Even IBM mainframe evolution?


message 16: by Hollyinnnv (new)

Hollyinnnv | 60 comments I forgot to mention the shoe reference in ch.4. It happens just prior to the big-little endian section. Swift writes of two "struggling Parties" that advertise their differences by the heels of their shoes. They are either high or low.

This refers to the high and low Church of England. Swift was a member of the high church. Swift then writes that "high Heels are most agreeable to our ancient Constitution." Here he makes a political statement (supportive of Tories) and an oblique reference to the ancient vs modern debate. The Tories and high church value the ancient Constitution, the Magna Charta.

I think that our modern interpretation would be to say that Swift is showing us the ridiculousness of religious differences. Look at how trivial they act-focusing on things like shoes or how to eat an egg. But, I think that there is more to what he is saying because he also (at least in this case) picks a winner. In this case, the high shoes are "more agreeable to our ancient Constitution." Swift is both poking fun at the goofy differences and saying "Yeah, but one is still better than the other." This subtle religio-political nuance travels through the book. In the case of Swift, he often says two true things at once. The first thing is easy to spot. The second thing can be tough without the historical, political context.


message 17: by David (new)

David | 2710 comments Hollyinnnv wrote: "Swift is both poking fun at the goofy differences and saying "Yeah, but one is still better than the other."

I noticed this along with another behavior. Gulliver suggests the controversy over egg ends/religion,. . .should be left to every man’s conscience. . . but then in the same breath he backs off and adds, . . .or at least in the power of the chief magistrate to determine.

So just before I could celebrate a premise for religious freedom I had to sit back down and enjoy the moment in the same manner that I most often enjoy my favorite sports teams, "So close, maybe next year.".

Gulliver seems to take most things at face value, but he is not completely without opinions.


message 18: by Aiden (new)

Aiden Hunt (paidenhunt) | 253 comments David wrote: "Gulliver suggests the controversy over egg ends/religion,. . .should be left to every man’s conscience. . . but then in the same breath he backs off and adds, . . .or at least in the power of the chief magistrate to determine."

I read that more as a comment on the contradictory nature of outlawing certain religious sects, to the extent of executing members who refused to conform, while preaching a religion supposedly founded on free will, as all sects of Christianity claim.

Whether the king was Protestant or Catholic, they would basically tell people, “All we want is for you to look inside your conscience and follow what you truly believe, and what God tells you, is right...” With the subtext being that if you see truth as the government (chief magistrate) sees it, they’ll even let you live.


message 19: by David (last edited Jul 24, 2020 09:06PM) (new)

David | 2710 comments Along with Hollyinnnv's very helpful notes, I think we need to at least mention the courtly diversions in chapter 3. What is the meaning behind all of the rope dancing, the leaping and creeping over or under the stick to win different color threads, and what is the joke behind this bit of news?
I was assured that a year or two before my arrival, Flimnap would have infallibly broke his neck, if one of the King’s cushions, that accidentally lay on the ground, had not weakened the force of his fall.
How do Gulliver's descriptions of the courtly diversions compare to what Swift is really telling us?


message 20: by Hollyinnnv (new)

Hollyinnnv | 60 comments Aiden wrote: "David wrote: "Gulliver suggests the controversy over egg ends/religion,. . .should be left to every man’s conscience. . . but then in the same breath he backs off and adds, . . .or at least in the ..."

Hey Aiden,
The idea of free will was more in line with the dissenting folks-the members of the sects like Methodists, Quakers, and Presbyterians. It was def. not the idea of the Church of England. (And I seriously doubt it was papist either.) So, this section is where Swift is really knocking his religious "enemies."
Holly


message 21: by Donnally (last edited Jul 25, 2020 01:06PM) (new)

Donnally Miller | 101 comments David wrote: "I think we need to at least mention the courtly diversions in chapter 3. What is the meaning behind all of the rope dancing, the leaping and creeping over or under the stick to win different color threads, and what is the joke behind this bit of news?"

They're a bit obscure and meaningless for a modern reader, but amused Swift's contemporaries. Flimnap, the treasurer, is unquestionably Sir Robert Walpole, who was a favorite object of Swift's satire. Reldresal is supposed to mean James Stanhope, made second Secretary of State on the accession of George I, and created Earl Stanhope in 1717. In 1717 Walpole, yielding to the predominant influence of Sunderland and Stanhope, resigned his office of First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer; but the Duchess of Kendal, the king's favorite -- popularly known as the "Maypole," and here termed "a cushion" -- remained his friend, broke his fall, and contributed not a little to his restoration, on the sudden death of Stanhope in 1721, to the highest office in the realm, which he skilfully held for an unaccustomedly long time. The threads of blue, red and green are the three orders of knighthood -- the Garter, the Bath and the Thistle. Walpole was distinguished by the two former honors -- the first of which he received in 1726, the second, on its revival, in 1724; being, says my authority Coxe, excepting Admiral Montagu, afterwards Earl of Sandwich, the only commoner who, since the reign of James I, had been dignified by the order of the Garter. On the occasion of Walpole reviving the order of the Bath, Swift wrote some lines embodying the idea afterwards fully worked out on the Voyage to Lilliput:
"And he who'll leap over a stick for the King
Is qualified best for a dog in a string."


message 22: by Donnally (new)

Donnally Miller | 101 comments By the way, my citation is from William Coxe, Memoirs of the Life and Administration of Sir Robert Walpole.


message 23: by Kathy (new)

Kathy (klzeepsbcglobalnet) | 478 comments Hello, All. I fell off the Don Quixote wagon about halfway through the book but have run down the road after you to leap on again for this reading. I'm not a regular, but I hope you don't mind me jumping in once a year or so!

I, too, remember bits of GT from childhood. It seems now like a very strange thing to give children to read (as late as the 1970s!) except that I then think of other examples of texts that were clearly meant for adults but given to children, who couldn't possibly have read them figuratively--at least, not without help. Maybe I shouldn't say "clearly" because I wonder whether people used to make as much of a distinction between what's appropriate for children and what adults read. I'm thinking of Old Testament stories, for example, and folk fairy tales, both genres of which contain violence and sexuality now deemed totally inappropriate for young children's consumption.

Does anyone know whether GT was originally treated as a children's story or, at least, read by children? Perhaps that's something that came later, when it was watered down into a charming Saturday morning cartoon about a gentle giant and the little people who tied him up and climbed all over him.
I'm guessing this may be what I remember: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0063863/


message 24: by Donnally (new)

Donnally Miller | 101 comments The genre that we think of as 'children's stories' did not exist in the eighteenth century. It was a creation of the Victorians. The eighteenth century regarded children more as small adults, and the literature appropriate to them was in the nature of sermonizing stories such as Maria Edgeworth's The Parent's Assistant (1796).
There was a body of folk legend which had found its way to the nursery under the guise of 'fairy stories.' Of these, JRR Tolkien writes in On Fairy-Stories: "Fairy-stories have in the modern lettered world been relegated to the 'nursery', as shabby or old-fashioned furniture is relegated to the play-room, primarily because the adults do not want it, and do not mind if it is misused."
Something similar has occurred to GT. It, along with Pilgrim's Progress and Robinson Crusoe were also hijacked to the nursery, and so were read and loved by generations of children before any specific literature was written for them. Swift would never have imagined that his vituperative satire on human nature and society was intended for children. The genre that Swift was emulating was the popular one at the time of traveler's tales. GT (or, more precisely, the first book of GT) has likely been included in the popular mind with the genre of fairy stories because Lilliputians are small, like fairies, but that was just because Swift was peering down at men sardonically from above their heads.


message 25: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1625 comments I have an old edition of GT which I purchased decades ago when I was in graduate school. This edition includes extensive footnotes explaining the references. I don’t know if other editions are as extensively annotated.

While I appreciate knowing the jabs Swift is taking at his political contemporaries and political factions, I’m wondering if it is necessary to know who, what, and why Swift took these jabs in order to appreciate the work. Is it possible to transcend the specificity of Swift’s political machinations and “universalize”? I guess what I’m getting at is this: is it necessary to know the specific references of Big-Endian vs. Little Endian in order to recognize Swift is arguing that people can be at war for the dumbest reasons? Do we have to know his specific reference to Tories and Whigs in order to recognize that political parties will bicker over the silliest things? Can we not recognize politicians who "leap and creep" in order to ingratiate themselves with the Emperor?

It seems to me we should be able to transcend the specifics of Swift’s satire. We should be able to extrapolate from his time and place and apply it to all times and all places. I would like to think the novel does more than refer to the politics of Swift’s time. I would like to think it speaks to us today and sheds light on a political climate, including our own, and regardless of time and place.

Any thoughts?


message 26: by Aiden (last edited Jul 26, 2020 11:51AM) (new)

Aiden Hunt (paidenhunt) | 253 comments Tamara wrote: "I have an old edition of GT which I purchased decades ago when I was in graduate school. This edition includes extensive footnotes explaining the references. I don’t know if other editions are as e..."

I think the nature of satire requires that the reader be familiar with the culture, including time and place, that is being satirized. However, my first reading before we started discussion was with the Barnes & Noble Classics edition which has minimal footnotes for necessary facts and I didn’t have a problem with it (the first two books are much more topical, so what we’re reading now requires more specifics than the later books).

I actually ran into the problem of needing cultural knowledge to appreciate satire when recently studying Aristophanes, one of the oldest satirists. With Swift, though, the time and place isn’t as distant, so I don’t think you need to read English history to appreciate it.

I think the themes can be appreciated through the ages, because all satire is about being subversive through parody of “societal institutions”. The specific norms/mores change, but every society has them and all satire is about rebellion through comedy.

We read, we laugh, then we think...

Note: I do see modern day parallels, but it seems best to keep away from modern politics in discussion.


message 27: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1625 comments Aiden wrote: "Note: I do see modern day parallels, but it seems best to keep away from modern politics in discussion..."

I agree completely. And I wasn't suggesting we engage in a discussion of modern politics. I was suggesting that, in addition to satirizing his political, cultural, and economic climate, Swift's work transcends its political time and place. It seems to me to be as much about human failings in general and our defective institutions as it is about Swift's political climate.


message 28: by Donnally (new)

Donnally Miller | 101 comments I agree with Tamara completely. While Swift was satirizing a specific political situation for the amusement of his contemporaries, he also had an eye to making the satire universal, because what he is satirizing is human nature, which doesn't change.
And in the opening letter, Swift also satirized those who think satire will result in changing human nature.


message 29: by Lily (last edited Jul 26, 2020 02:11PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Kathy wrote: "Hello, All. I fell off the Don Quixote wagon about halfway through the book but have run down the road after you to leap on again for this reading. I'm not a regular, but I hope you don't mind me j..."

Kathy -- so welcome to hear your voice! Have been missing you. You may not be a "regular" but you are certainly among WC's faithful. (If you don't believe me, search members by number of comments.)


message 30: by David (last edited Jul 27, 2020 11:11AM) (new)

David | 2710 comments @Kathy. Yes! I watched this cartoon as a kid on "The Banana Splits" show. My favorite was Glum, the Eeyore of Lilliput. We're Doomed!

I think it is important to be aware of the specifics of the satire because things are never exactly the same and knowing the details should serve to temper extrapolating it to later times.

On the other hand, it is always sobering to recognize that certain things have not changed much in nearly 300 years


message 31: by Aiden (last edited Jul 26, 2020 02:41PM) (new)

Aiden Hunt (paidenhunt) | 253 comments Tamara wrote: "I was suggesting that, in addition to satirizing his political, cultural, and economic climate, Swift's work transcends its political time and place. It seems to me to be as much about human failings in general and our defective institutions as it is about Swift's political climate."

In case I wasn’t clear, I was agreeing with your post. GT is a good work of satire and good satire transcends time and place through its themes. Themes of human failings and defective institutions, like corrupt rulers, gender roles, religious norms and the like that are shared by every society in every age (or, at least, every society that permits dissent).


message 32: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1625 comments Aiden wrote: "In case I wasn’t clear, I was agreeing with your post. GT is a good work of satire and good satire transcends time and place through its themes. .."

Got it. Thanks.


message 33: by Lily (last edited Jul 26, 2020 07:21PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Kathy wrote: " I'm thinking of Old Testament stories, for example, and folk fairy tales, both genres of which contain violence and sexuality now deemed totally inappropriate for young children's consumption...."

I suspect there have been major differences across the many, many denominations, especially in the United States, on how Old Testament stories have been presented to children. (When was it that they were kicked out of public schools?) Certainly one of the on-going reactions among the women in the Bible circles I have attended since retiring has been how different those stories as we read them are from the ones they remember out of their younger days/their children's Sunday school literature or as they themselves taught them.

Now, the whole area of folk fairy tales is another of controversy -- both in their historic roles and the impact of Disney et al on them. Bryan mentioned The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales by Bruno Bettelheim in our recent discussion of Kierkegaard. The Goodreads reviews of that book suggest some of the insights Bettelheim articulated as well as some of the controversies about both the content and the author.


message 34: by Hollyinnnv (last edited Jul 27, 2020 09:07AM) (new)

Hollyinnnv | 60 comments Tamara wrote: "While I appreciate knowing the jabs Swift is taking at his political contemporaries and political factions, I’m wondering if it is necessary to know who, what, and why Swift took these jabs in order to appreciate the work. Is it possible to transcend the specificity of Swift’s political machinations and “universalize”?."

Hi Tamara et. al.,
I agree with you. I think that Swift's satire is so wonderful because it does transcend its day more easily than many works from the period right before him. (I'm thinking of texts like Absalom & Achitophel, Last Instructions to a Painter, and Hudibras.) Late 17th century
satire was quite occasional (written to the occasion.) thus its much more difficult to read.
However, I guess I'll mention that I think we do lose a bit when we don't see some of the historical allusions. For example, it's tempting to read the endian debate as an entertaining episode. But, in alluding to Charles I and James II, Swift is reminding everyone
Remember our beloved king who was murdered?
Remember who killed our king?
Remember the horrible (Swift's opinion) interlude of the Commonwealth?
These things can happen again.
Don't forget who your enemy is-even in the little debates of life!
I think Swift's tone is cautionary, bitter, and anxious here, and this tone comes back throughout GT. For me, the tone makes Swift's text infinitely more relatable to modern times-LOL.
All just one person's opinion-and I definitely love reading everyone's thoughts.
Holly

Edited to add:
Can you imagine if the South had won the American Civil War? Then, they take Lincoln hostage. He will not do what the Southern leaders ask him to do. So they publicly behead him. The South rules for about 20 years, and much of what they do upsets you. You have little means of speaking against them because of censorship. Finally the North takes control again. After that, whenever anyone talks about Lincoln, it reminds you of his unjust death. If his head, long neck, or stovepipe hat is mentioned, it reminds you that "tyranny" is only a step away from your existence.

This is the "dog whistle" that Swift is employing in the endian episode.


message 35: by David (new)

David | 2710 comments Hollyinnnv, that is an interesting extrapolation underscoring the need to replace George Santayana's claim that 'Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it. with this one.
History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.
~ Unknown (not Mark Twain)



message 36: by Kathy (new)

Kathy (klzeepsbcglobalnet) | 478 comments LOL, it could be Mark Twain!

Lily, it's nice to see you and a few other familiar faces here, too! I used to teach from the introduction to Bettelheim's book (until I decided the controversy overshadowed the work), and my college students were always horrified and maybe a little bit thrilled to read the Grimm Brothers versions of those Disney spinoffs they knew and loved.

I do find the footnotes/historical context of GT interesting. While I agree with Tamara and others that this can certainly be read and appreciated on its "superficial" figurative level (for lack of a better way of putting it), I'm reading from an unannotated edition I picked up a couple of weeks ago in a used bookstore and would be missing most of the specific references without this conversation. I was interested to learn from the introduction in my copy by Leo Damrosch that Swift was "the distinguished Dean of the Anglican St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin"--not at all who I'd imagined him to be. In some ways, this makes me appreciate him more. He's a more complex figure than I had previously understood him to be--though still not likely to be one of the three famous people I'd invite to dinner, given the chance.


message 37: by Lily (last edited Jul 28, 2020 08:37AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Kathy wrote: "While I agree with Tamara and others that this can certainly be read and appreciated on its "superficial" figurative level (for lack of a better way of putting it)..."

Well, Kathy, this seems to be my week for getting involved in the nuances of words. I doubt "superficial" exactly captures what Tamara was conveying, but I think I'll let you two instructors ferret out the words that capture the meanings you are each trying to convey! It almost seems the idea ("deeper", "broader"?) is the opposite of "superficial", but superficial does carry the sense of "on top of"? I have to go to a ZOOM meeting now, but may come back to this with dictionary in hand. (Wittgenstein types, help?)


message 38: by Tamara (last edited Jul 28, 2020 06:28AM) (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1625 comments Lily wrote: "Well, Kathy, this seems to be my week for getting involved in the nuances of words. I doubt "superficial" exactly captures what Tamara was conveying, but I think I'll let you two instructors ferret out the words that capture the meanings you are each trying to convey!.."

Thank you, Lily.

Kathy, I'm not quite sure what you meant by the word "superficial." Are you attributing it to Swift's allusions or to the deeper level I was trying to get at? Perhaps you can clarify.

In case I wasn't clear, the point I was trying to make is that Swift can be read on two levels--the specific references to Swift's contemporaries and the political climate of his time; and a deeper level which transcends Swift's time and place since much of what he satirizes can be applied to humans and their institutions at any time and any place.

While I think the first level is significant to a degree, the deeper level has more resonance for me. I think what Swift says has universal applications. I see him as raising fundamental questions about what it means to be human. He gets us up close and personal; then he takes us back and gives us a long view. All the while he is asking us to take a long, hard look at ourselves and our institutions.


message 39: by Hollyinnnv (new)

Hollyinnnv | 60 comments Donnally wrote: "David wrote: "I think we need to at least mention the courtly diversions in chapter 3. What is the meaning behind all of the rope dancing, the leaping and creeping over or under the stick to win di..."
Just to add to Donnally's helpful rope dancing post.

William Hogarth is an artist contemporaneous with Swift. He illustrated a scene from the Southwark Faire that includes a rope dancer. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collect... Hogarth is my favorite artist of this time period. (BTW, he illustrated himself and his dog Trump in my goodreads avatar.)

If you haven't seen Hogarth's representation of Gulliver, here's a link to that. It's hilarious.
https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collect...

Finally, I'd add that rope dancers and associated fair workers had an unsavory reputation, kind of like the more recent idea of the "carnie." So, applying that label to Walpole was obviously unkind. John Gay's incredibly popular "The Beggar's Opera" came out around the same time. In that work, Walpole is symbolized as Mr. Peachum, the head of a criminal organization (like the mob), who does not hesitate to betray/discard his underlings when they have lost their ability to aid him.


message 40: by Lily (last edited Jul 28, 2020 09:58AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Hollyinnnv wrote: If you haven't seen Hogarth's representation of Gulliver, here's a link to that..."

Besides the link Holly provides, you may want to search for "Hogarth Gulliver's Travels". The Met has a lot of images, worth more than one digital visit.

While we are speaking of Hogarth and satire, here is link I did not post when we were reading Sterne. I will warn that it is raw and will be offensive, but relevant to the discussions we are having here about satire, including Donnelly's observation "And in the opening letter, Swift also satirized those who think satire will result in changing human nature." Martin Rowson is a British cartoonist and author whose work has often appeared in The Guardian. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K61-H...


message 41: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 1625 comments Lily wrote: "Martin Rowson is a British cartoonist and author whose work has often appeared in The Guardian. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K61-H......"

A wonderful lecture. It's long but very interesting. Thank you for posting it, Lily.

Rowson does a great job of encapsulating 18thC British satire. I loved his discussion of Tristram Shandy; and A Sentimental Journey. I was reminded of why I love the novel and of how much I enjoyed our recent discussion of it.


message 42: by Chris (new)

Chris | 389 comments I am reading this for the first time and appreciate all the commentary as I am trying to catch up (seems to be my modus operandi) I have the 2010 Penguin Classics edition. I usually don't read introductions prior to the book, so I can form my own ideas/opinions about the work, but this time I did and found it most helpful. Am I the only one that finds this writing style and the unfamiliar words difficult? It feels so choppy and I have to refer to the notes often. Why does he do such haphazard capitalization? Was the writing style of the period?

As I learn about the politics and behavior he is satirizing, it is humorous. Would the readers of the time know what he was doing? I am assuming yes, as he & his politics was well-known. Is it less offensive to those he is skewering because it set in a fantasy world?

As I read this, I wonder when did someone decide to edit as a story for children?


message 43: by Lily (last edited Jul 28, 2020 02:52PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Hollyinnnv wrote: "...William Hogarth is an artist contemporaneous with Swift. He illustrated a scene from the Southwark Faire that includes a rope dancer...."

Hmm, looking at that reminds me of Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin.


message 44: by Ashley (last edited Jul 28, 2020 04:02PM) (new)

Ashley Adams | 328 comments Hi all, this will be my second read of GT. Hoping to grasp more of the satirical elements this time around, and so far have found the background info posted here to be pretty helpful (though not necessary).

The part I keep coming back to in my head is the letter from Gulliver to his cousin. He calls the account very loose and incorrect, there are mistakes in the dates and the original manuscript no longer exists. He has sent corrections to be included in the event of a second publication, “ and yet I cannot stand to them; but shall leave that matter to my judicious and candid readers to adjust it as they please.”

I don’t know why I keep coming back to the erosion of truth and the need to recreate it, that’s what is on my mind lately though.


message 45: by Ashley (new)

Ashley Adams | 328 comments In the first part Gulliver seems to feel little superior just because of his large size. As though he has allowed himself to be imprisoned. He thinks of dashing the little people to the ground and even pretends to eat a few. So far what he seems to actually do is the stuff of basic bodily functions. He performs the "wonders" of eating, drinking, and relieving himself.


message 46: by Aiden (new)

Aiden Hunt (paidenhunt) | 253 comments Chris wrote: "I am reading this for the first time and appreciate all the commentary as I am trying to catch up (seems to be my modus operandi) I have the 2010 Penguin Classics edition. I usually don't read intr..."

I’ve questioned the capitalization as unnecessary, but I’m pretty sure both it and the “choppy” writing style is attributable to the fact that GT is written as a parody of the travel memoirs of the day. The style and even the original frontispiece mimicked the ostentatious nature of that type of literature, not literature of the day in general.

It was written 300 years ago, so unfamiliar words might just be changes in the English language. As for whether audiences of the day would have understood the satire, I would say some political references would have been obvious because of major national events like the English Civil War, while others would be as unfamiliar as modern satire is to people who don’t follow politics.


message 47: by Aiden (last edited Jul 28, 2020 06:00PM) (new)

Aiden Hunt (paidenhunt) | 253 comments Ashley wrote: "The part I keep coming back to in my head is the letter from Gulliver to his cousin. He calls the account very loose and incorrect,..."

Glad you could join us, Ashley. The letter from Gulliver to Sympson was actually added in the second edition of GT in 1735. It was largely Swift’s sarcastic jab at his publisher. Apparently, the publisher made a few edits and additions for what he thought was propriety’s sake and Swift wasn’t pleased.

Whether the tone is reflective of the author or the character of Lemuel Gulliver is left to the reader, but I’ve read that Swift was known to enjoy hoaxes, so I’m inclined to think he’s being facetious. He definitely didn’t like the editing without consultation (what writer does?), but I don’t think it bothered Swift so much as gave him the opportunity to clear it up and set the tone for the rest of the work in the process.


message 48: by Ashley (new)

Ashley Adams | 328 comments David wrote: "Along with Hollyinnnv's very helpful notes, I think we need to at least mention the courtly diversions in chapter 3. What is the meaning behind all of the rope dancing, the leaping and creeping ove..."

Gulliver has this to say about the rope dancing:
"This diversion is only practised by those persons who are
candidates for great employments, and high favour at court. They
are trained in this art from their youth, and are not always of
noble birth, or liberal education. When a great office is vacant,
either by death or disgrace (which often happens,) five or six of
those candidates petition the emperor to entertain his majesty and the court with a dance on the rope; and whoever jumps the highest, without falling, succeeds in the office."

So, it's political. As many of you have pointed out. For me, it is important that Gulliver sees their political custom as a fun diversion, when to the Lilliputians it is extremely dangerous and meaningful.


message 49: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5057 comments Ashley wrote: "For me, it is important that Gulliver sees their political custom as a fun diversion, when to the Lilliputians it is extremely dangerous and meaningful. ..."

Are you implying that Swift himself sees it ("this political custom") one or the other of those two ways?


message 50: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 337 comments I am glad to be participating in this read. The commentaries about the satires made the reading more funny. I suspected that the egg episode was about religion but you shed some light about the matter.


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