Seminar Swift And The Historical Content In 'gulliver's Travels'.

1443 words - 6 pages

SEMINAR - Swift and The Historical Content in 'Gulliver's Travels'.As the text is complex and has two and half centuries of fierce criticism with regards to Swift's character and the content of the text and its meaning, it has been necessary to reduce the seminar topic too a manageable section.In this seminar I will be discussing one aspect of Swift and the text 'Gulliver's Travels', that of the historical content and its focus and its indirect relation to the question 'To what extent Swift was a critic of the Enlightenment?'The answer is a complex one as is Johnathan Swift and the text. In order to make the answer more comprehensible I have broken up this seminar into two main areas of discussion under the subheadings-1:- The Historical and Biographical factors that influenced Swift in his life.2:- The Historical Content and its Focus in the text.1:- The Historical and Biographical factors that influenced Swift in his life.Swift was born and brought up in comparative poverty in Ireland, this meant that he grew up among an unstable society torn by fundamental political and religious differences. His father died several months before he was born and his parents marriage had been, by his own later account, rather imprudent. So he was brought up in modest circumstances depending on his Uncle who later paid for him to get an education. Swift had direct and personal experience of revolutionary instability of a kind few of his English contemporaries would have had. His father and Uncle had settled in Ireland as late as the restoration, being thus among the newest, most rootless, of the alien English racial and religious minority.The peasants life in Ireland which had a large population had a profound affect on Swift due to the severe degradation suffered and in Spencer's words the 'savagery' of the peasant, commented on in 'View of The Present State of Ireland'. There is a debate that argues that the Yahoos in Swifts text are in fact a representation of the peasants of Ireland. This experience of the level to which human existence might sink gave Swift a real appreciation for what Hobbes described in 'Leviathan' as the 'state of nature' in which human life was 'nasty, brutish and short'.Swift was committed to Christianity by intellectual conviction. His ecclesiastical career was confined to the Church of Ireland( he could not get preferment in England). One of Swifts main patrons was Sir William Temple, Temple died in 1699 with Swift no closer to his goals, his next two disappointments came under the patronage of the Earl of Berkeley. Swift set out with Berkeley as his Chaplain and Private Secretary, these two positions were apparently(In Swifts opinion) taken off him by somebody who had the Earls ear. Due to his career frustrations Swift learnt that in the corrupt world of contemporary politics, merit was not rewarded. This leads us smoothly on to the second section as we can now see why Swift used Historical content in his text and what he was...

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