Saturday, December 4, 2010

What about Swift?

In perusing the other blogs I have come to notice somewhat of a hole in the story that is being created about the class content. No one seems to have touched on the important distinctions between Baconian and Augustan trains of thought that the reading of Jonathon Swift's Gulliver's Travels has given us. This text was one of my favorite this semester because of my natural love of sarcasm and satire. When you first think of Gulliver's Travels you do not think about the comment it is making on the politics and society of the time, but once inferred there are many extremely funny examples of this in the text. In the section "A Voyage to the Houyhnhnms" when Gulliver is living with the Houyhnhnms (rational horses) he is very content to live without "the Treachery or Inconstancy of a Friend...[a] Physician to destroy my Body, nor Lawyer to ruin my Leaders or Followers of Party and Faction" (Swift 258) and he enjoys hearing how the horses concentrate their thought on "Friendship and Benevolence...the visible Operations of Nature...[and] the unerring Rules of Reason" (259), ideals which Swift obviously shares. Through prose Swift gives a perfect example of the type of situations and issues of morality that the Augustans were arguing against. They felt that "right reason" and a balance between nature and man was necessary for a morally correct society. Swift turns nature on its head by inventing an island where the horses are civilized and reasonable and the humans are amoral and simple to show how far from these ideals his society had drifted. In using deadpan humor and imaginative situations, Swift extends the Augustan philosophy of respect for nature and knowledge to a different and artistic level.

Source: Swift, Jonathan. Gulliver's Travels. Ed. Claude Rawson and notes by Ian Higgins. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Print.

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