BY GULLI !
Gulliver's Travels, on
BBC4, sept 02
> sur 198 LW, du 2 au 13 sept , in Book at
Bedtime, from 10.45pm to 11.00pm (GB time).
Voici ce qu'on lit dans le magazine, p. 114 :
"Poor nations are hungry and rich nations are proud; and pride and hunger will
ever be at variance."
In fact it is one of the truisms from Jonathan Swift's biting 18th-century satire,
GT, animated by an excellent array of voices over the next two weeks by John Sessions
for the Book at Bedtime slot.
Lawyers, politicians, courtiers, doctors, councillors, academics, self-serving sycophants
and even 300-year-old versions of our contemporary spin doctors get the verbal pasting
they deserve from Swift's pen as his unwilling hero, Lemuel Gulliver, is transported
to four fantastic locales as he tries to find his way back home.
Little wonder the book is counted as a favourite for the likes of Michael Foot and
Ian Hislop - but is it a great work of fiction?
Perhaps Gulliver is best placed to answer that :
'Nothing is great or little otherwise than by comparison.'
- Jane Anderson - from Radiotimes, 31 Aug. -6 Sept. 2002.
(info Cat Loudéa).
Some candidates have taped this programme ! e-mail
> on peut réécouter un certain
nombre de progs de BBC 4, dont "book at bedtime" sur le site de radio 4 dans la rubrique "Recommended listening", lien "Listen
On y trouve ce commentaire pour 'Book at Bedtime': now available for you to listen
to whenever you like... the reading will be available here for seven days after broadcast... - Daniel Relet, agrégé 2002.
> Ayant téléchargé Real Player
j'ai pu écouter en allant ici
l'émission "book at bed time" (rubrique "Recommended listening",
en passant par "Listen again here"). - Mariella Bord.
17 DISSERTES ?
1 proposé ù Rennes, ù rendre avant décembre
: Gulliver's Travel, le livre
qui n'est pas. (the book that is not - les
externes dissertant en franÆais).
2 proposé ù Tours : Is Gulliver the hero of Gulliver's
3 IUFMartinique, sujet proposé par Mme Révauger
: How far is GT indebted
to the Enlightenment ?
4 m'mm... aca d'Amiens : Gulliver : utopia
5 Amiens, II : Commentez et discutez cette affirmation
de Thackeray ù propos de GT :" As for the humour and conduct of this
famous fable, I suppose there is no person who reads but must admire; as for the
moral, I think it horrible, shameful, unmanly, blasphemous; and giant and great as
this Dean is, I say we should hoot him."
Des échos des corrigés,
FAC PREP : TOURS ECHOES
For complementary reading :
- excerpts from Sheldon Shacks 'Fiction
and the shape of belief' : a study of Henry Fielding with glances at Swift and Richardson,
Univ. California ,
- Chapter 1 : Towards a grammar of
the types of fiction.
- Lucian, The true History, first
- Lucian, Dialogues, translated from
- Thomas More, Utopia, book 2, Warfare.
Pay special attention in G's T to
- Book 2, chapt 7, pp. 122-124.
- Book 1, chapt 5, pp. 39-41.
CAPES 2002 report :
ai été assez heureuse d'avoir ù composer sur un texte de Gulliver.
Dans mon introduction, j'ai mentionné que les lecteurs actuels de ce roman
le considéraient comme une satire féroce de la société,
mais que ce texte avait longtemps été considéré comme
une lecture facile, destinée aux jeunes.
J'ai signalé que l'extrait donné faisait partie du deuxiœme
livre et que dans le premier apparaissaient des considérations relatives aux
théories neo-platoniciennes en voque ù l'époque de Swift et
j'ai rappoché - jusqu'ù un certain point - les conceptions de Swift
de celles de Pascal.
La progression de Gulliver va dans le sens d'une critique de plus en plus sévœre
de la société, pour arriver ù un 'climax' dans le quatriœme
livre o¦ les humains sont d'horribles yahoos.
Mon plan a été approximativement :
- un texte didactique: attaque de
la guerre, du machiavélisme.
- le point de vue narratologique:
comment Swift pousse le lecteur ù considérer alternativement le point
de vue du roi de Brodingnag et celui des européens.
- point de vue didactique, ù
nouveau mais au niveau des idées, aussi bien morales qu'esthétiques
qu'au niveau des connaissances humaines.
Je n'ai évidemment pas rédigé
de brouillon, et je me rappelle avoir
été pressée par le temps lors de la conclusion.
Cello, admissible CAPES 2002.
satire / humour / wit, author / narrator
/ character / persona (the role, the "second self"created by the author or the narrator, as in GT, the first
person speaker, dimension / size / identity ( does one exist only in the eye of the beholder
? only as far as one's identity
as a human is recognized ) / places, religion, education, défamiliarisation (la technique centrale
de Swift), jargons, l'autre et l'ailleurs, la claustration/confinement/clÈture, vision,
animalité/ humanité, la nature, l'ambivalence/ ambiguité, le
"roman qui n'est pas", le masque; innocence / ignorance ; avant/aprœs
la Chute (sens biblique: Houyhnhnms
vs Yahoos); la transition (entre
deux mondes - rejoint la défamiliarisation); pride ; splendide mendax, satire,
ironie, un/reliable narrator...
THE SHOULDER HEAVY LOAD
IN THE UTOPIAN TRADITION
There is a long tradition of Utopian / Dystopian
writing in England.
Some works - real Utopias - show an ideal country which can be considered as a model.
This is for instance the case with Thomas More's Utopia (1515), Francis Bacon's New
Atlantis (1622), William Morris's News from Nowhere (1891).
Other writers choose to describe an imaginary and nightmarish world to warn us against
some of the dangers in our society.
George Orwell's '1984' (1949) is a well-known example of such a dystopia.
Another possibility is to imagine an utterly different world, neither entirely good
nor bad, but whose differences will bring out the absurdities or merits of what we
take for granted in our country (e.g. Samuel Butler's Erewhon).
Gulliver's Travels combines these three varieties of Utopian writing.
- trouvé dans 'An introduction to English Literature'...
FULL SWING HUMOUR : gearing for agreg 2003
commencé Swift, et je suis mort de rire.
Je l'avais lu en partie il y a quelques années et je ne me souviens pas m'Átre
Le processus d'infantilisation est intéressant d'autant plus qu'on a souvent
des descriptions d'objets vus des lilliputiens.
Je trouve le changement de perspective excellent et on voit bien tout ce qui découle
d'une vision sous un autre angle d'un objet familier.
On en arrive vraiment ù des réflexions plus complexes sur la notion
de vérité (on ne voit qu'une partie d'un tout) qui illustre la vision
ironique de "veracity".
Quant aux noms... je suis un peu inquiet pour ce qui est de certaines prononciations...
En tout cas c'est vrai que le cÈté scato est génial surtout qu'on
ne s'y attend pas trop ù une préparation d'agreg...
D'ailleurs Æa me donne des idées, et je pense que plutÈt d'annoncer
que je vais aux toile..es, je dirai dorénavant
"I'm going to discharge
my body of an uneasy Load".
A ce lien
on peut lire ou télécharger une préface ù Gulliver's
Travels, en franÆais (32 pages) :
> En avanÆant dans ma lecture, j'essaie de m'y
retrouver dans les allusions aux différents rois et reines, aux tories et
aux whigs, ù la high church et ù la low churh. Je guette l'ironie,
les points de vues, la 'reliability' du narrateur, Swift derriœre le masque
de Gulliver... - Æa fait pas mal de choses pour commencer. - Mary La.
TRAVELS en 3 CD
(240 min.) est vendu sur le site
choicesdirect - pas d'actions chez eux! Sélectioner
TALKING TAPES et entrer les titres vendus ù de trœs bons prix ... env.
£11.89 port gratuit inclus.
Lectures d'une oeuvre : Gulliver's Travels, de Jonathan Swift /collectif
coordonné par Georges Lamoine; Paris : Editions du temps, 2001-10. - 158 p.
- ISBN 2842741781. Extraits.
> I read it about three
times with Cliff notes, Monarch notes and Spark notes, and the cned
book, which I thought was pretty good for
RANDOM FACIAL MEMO
Here's my temporary memo on Gulliver's
travels : the key words I've selected are not classified, except for the alphabetical
Some of the words are associated with collocations, and... by the way, I just want
briefly to make it clear that I DID NOT spend a whole hour classifying words alphabetically
- I don't suffer from Freudian obssessive, 'anal personality' ; I just went on Word,
did tableau, trier...
The purpose is to make sure no redunduncy is left, and to support memorization...
Abstractions (techniques of making them concrete)
Amoral (scientific learning)
Character (unimaginative and credulous)
Customs (of ancestors)
Knowledge (partial, concentrating on one element only)
Laws and customs
Magnanimous and just
Narrator (not omniscient )
Natural law vs Common law
Natural process (reversal)
Out of proportion
Party (High Heel)
Party (Low Heel)
Perversion (of reason)
Point of view
Politicians (wily, bloody-minded, treacherous)
Pride (the most dangerous sin of all)
Reason (limits of.)
Scenes (astonishingly detailed and dead-pan)
Somewhere between pettiness and magnanimity
Style (deliberately prosaic)
Subservience (of courtiers)
LIBRES COMMENTAIRES :
'In Reality all things
imaginable are but Nouns' p. 184, p. III, ch.5
Voici quelques notes glanées
Æa et lù au fil de lectures critiques.
Il y a 2 thœmes dans ce passage :
- Swift and parody (condemnation
- Swift and language (capacité
observable chez les hommes d'exprimer une pensée et d'échanger au moyen
de signes vocaux ou graphiques)
L'intérÁt de Swift
pour le langage ne date pas des GT.
Nombre de ses oeuvres antérieures ont trait ù tel ou tel aspect du
langage. Il part en guerre contre ceux qui parlent trop, les dogmatiques, les pédants...
Il dénonce les travers du langage de l'époque condamnant l'excœs
d'abréviations et d'élisions, fustigeant les mots ù la mode
et les interruptions du discours.
Swift prÈne une langue simple.
Dans ce passage, on retrouve l'agacement de Swift devant l'excœs des abréviations
pratiquées par ses contemporains.
'Satirical assault on the Royal Society : In his History of the Royal Society, Thomas
Prat (English poet,1635-1713) had asserted that it was their intention to describe
'so many things, almost in an
equal number of words'; and
in his description of the linguistic experiments of the Royal Academy of Lagado Swift
implicitly ridicules such aspirations while calling into question Gulliver's own
In those projectors who plan to substitute actual objects for words, who literally
stagger under the weight of those things they wish to express, Swift found the perfect
image to embody his contempt for the various stylistic pretensions of Sprat and the
Influence des philosophes Locke et Berkeley
Relationship between words and things : res
J. Locke : words are signs for ideas existing in the speaker's mind = mental representations
of real objects.
Berkeley : no 'real objects' existing outside the realm of ideas so that there can
be no distinction between ideas and their 'contents'.
Meanings are determined not by correspondence to outside reality but by the context
in which the signs occur.
An enduring preoccupation of Swif's writing is the attempt to find an acceptable
relationship between words and their objects...
J'espœre que cela vous inspire... - ACC., Fresh West Indies.
'What kind of unity is discernible in Gulliver's Travels?'
=> thus such books were naturally divided into different parts according to the
Please notice that the book is not "Gulliver's Travels", but "Travels
into several remote nations of the world".
- character: unity lies also in the character of Gulliver himself, a character that
grows, changes and looks back upon all his adventures as having relationships and
relevance to one another, and as together tending to produce certain results: something
like "to minister" to the public good by convincing men of the depravity
oftheir conduct while at the same time holding up to them a noble model for imitation.
- another element of unity in the novel: the unity of purpose. as a matter of fact,
before writing his book, the writer of such a work as this had to know why he wrote
the book at all and for what end he would shape the character.
=> the character of Gulliver serves as part of the structure of a book whose aim
is to bring readers to a particular frame of mind, to a conviction, to a new way
of thinking and living.
confirmation de cette idée trouvée dans un extrait d'une lettre de
Gulliver ù son cousin Sumpson:
"instead of seeing a full stop put to all abuses and corruptions, at least on
this little island, as I had reason to expect: behold, after above six months warning,
I cannot learn that my book hath produced one single effect according to my intentions..."
In his very last sentence he adds that unless some corruptions of his Yahoo nature
had revived he would "never have attempted so absurd a project as that of reforming
the Yahoo race in this Kingdom."
Juste le résultat de quelques perso-flexions et de quelques lectures.
MORE DISSERTING :
Gulliver's Travels comme
sermon sur la vanité.
I Composition and Structure
Parts 1 and 2:
a mirror to one another.
Each are self contained.
a fantasy, a political allegory, a utopia
Part 2 :
counterpart to the first; reflection on relativity of size and
perception; introduces more emotion, characterization
Part 3 :
appears very loosely constructed; attack against the new science;
man's use of the past and the purpose of history
the most controversial; a bitter attack against mankind.
Now more perceived as a contrast between rational and bestial aspect of mankind.
Apparently the books are clearcut, with no or little unity, disconnected except by
accident. YET, parallels, echoes, structural unity can appear.
In each part: Gulliver discovers a new land, new inhabitants, learns new languages,
gives descriptions which serve as an instruments of criticism through elements of
Reflection which questions the image that man has of himself.
Attack on pride.
A revaluation of man's social role.
Another element of unity:
GT as a progress from ignorance, complacency to a better knowledge of reality and
the self. (Pinkus wrote:"the movement is not horizontal but vertical, moving
deeper and deeper into the depths of the unconscious" = an inward voyage for
Different themes and motifs permeate GT to create unity :
the animal motif; the body motif (the excremental vision); the clothes motif; the
Chinese motif; the language motif.
II The Genres of GT
Not possible to fit it into a classified genre.
Travel book? Imitation of the genre but also parody in the
form of satirical allusions, ironies.
Utopia? comes from the greek "outopia" = no place, nowhere.
GT : Both utopia and dystopia.
For some critics, GT is a cynic utopia because even in the utopian passages the cynic
will describe the utopia as what does not and cannot exist.
GT borrows and subverts different genres because it's first and foremost a satire.
Swift thought that satire was the most effective
method of reform.
Contrary to the moralist who tries to show an ideal behaviour, who tries to persuade
men to follow it, the satirist's aim is to expose vices in a ludicrous way to achieve
"by laughing not by storming" (Swift).
humour in the use of the absurd, of intellectual comedy.
Swift's comedy is based upon a perception of the disparity between reality and ideal
(basis of the satire)
devices of irony: *diminution/understatement, *praise-blame inversion
3. the irony mask:
Gulliver : a persona = a mask.
Swift uses G. for 2 purposes: a narrator (he's BOTH a protagonist, a first person
narrator = a mask) AND a device (the object of Swif's satiric purposes).
Ambivalence of G.
BUT, despite his role as a satiric device the reader must not confuse G. and Swift.
To what extent is G a spokesman? Who is talking?
2 points of view:
the younger G (naive and vain) AND the misanthrop in Part4 .
IV The Political Allegory
Elements of history.
Allegory: comes from the Greek : to speak otherwise. A term used in relation to works
of some length. Shorter orks are called fables, parodies.
GT is an allegorical work in some passages which refer to the political and religious
background of the time.
V Science and Philosophy
1. Laputa and the Academy of Lagado: in the 18th
century science and philosophy were linked. Arose a controversy over the issue of
applied science vs. pure science.
Francis Bacon, the Royal Society, Locke, Newton.
2. the nature of man: Locke , Hobbes, Descartes, Pascal
3. progress and history: the Struldbrug episode (=an attack on personal progress);
the battle of the Ancient and the Modern
1. language and corruption: language is inappropriate,
it may be perverted and used to deceive.
Difference in languages and cultural conflicts. Language and history, the system
The nature of language : it evolves, so it's unreliable, always in a state of flux
2. in search of a universal form of communication:
mimic gestures, symbolic gestures.
3. Swift's language and his narrative art.
VII Relationship between Swift, Gulliver and
The satirist plays a game with the reader by confusing
him using a strategy of entrapment, by making the reader question himself and his
2 types of reader:
- the one who is addressed by the narrator, by Gulliver
- the discerning reader who is addressed by Swift.
POLITICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF Gul's
Notes on an article by C.H. FIRTH,
contributed by Chris, our agreg person in the heart of Leeds.
Difficulty in reading S, and interpreting...
Swift loved to mystify the public.
He often preferred to speak in parables but at that time it was dangerous to write
plainly about public affairs or to criticize public men with any freedom. Dangerous
for S + printer + publisher.
Authors who wrote about public affairs were obliged to use literary artifices of
various kinds in order to express their opinions. Compensating advantage: Being allusive
and indirect stimulated the reader’s curiosity.
In GT many figures which seem to imaginary are meant to depict real personages or
”In describing the virtues and vices
of mankind, it is convenient, upon every article, to have some eminent person in
“However, if these papers should happen to live till our grandchildren are men, I
hope they may have curiosity enough to consult annals and compare dates.”
Political allusions abound in GT. Some are to the events of the end of Queen Anne’s
reign, others to events in the reign of George I.
South Sea Bubble 1720
Return of Walpole to office 1721
Return of Bolingbroke from exile 1723
Ejection of Carteret from the English Cabinet 1724
Supremacy of Walpole 1725
In Ireland, struggle over Wood’s patent 1722-5
These references to public events and personages are most frequent in the 1st and
Voyage to Lilliput
Chap 6. is an account of the laws and
customs of Lilliput
“ There are some laws…………” directs the attention of the readers to the impunity of
certain crimes in England and the shortcomings of English education.
2 struggling parties called Tramecksan and Slamecksan typify the High Church and
Low Church parties, i.e. Tories and Whigs.
'Potent enemy' = Blefuscu = France
The king in chap 2 is purely conventional. But in chap 6 S makes him a Whig “determined
to make use of only low heels”.
The parallel with George I is emphasized by making the heir to the throne show an
inclination to the High Heels // Prince of Wales preferred the Tories.
The ironical passage on the lenity and mercy of the king calls to mind the executions
after the rebellion of 1715 and the encomiums on the king’s mercy which the gvt had
published at that time.
Sometimes Gulliver represents Swift himself.
Extinction of the fire in the palace + resentment of the Empress in consequence //
Queen Anne was disgusted by The Tale of the Tub => S failed to obtain the Irish
bishopric in 1708.
In GT the captain’s chief enemy is a lord named Bolgolam and is mentioned as “ G’s
mortal enemy”. This person is clearly intended to represent the earl of Nottingham
who had long been Swift’s personal enemy.
Misfortunes of G in Lilliput = Fate of Bolingbroke. He and S were friends. Like G,
Bolingbroke had brought a great war to an end and concluded peace “upon conditions
very advantageous” to his country, but he was denounced by his opponents for prosecuting
the war to the complete subjugation of the enemy.
Bolingbroke was accused of treasonable intercourse with the ambassadors of France
// G with those of Blefuscu.
Bolingbroke declared he fled from England because “I had certain and repeated information
(…) that a resolution was taken by those who have power to execute it to pursue me
to the scaffold // G flees because he can’t obtain a fair trial.
Character of Flimnap obviously designed to represent Walpole. Walpole refused to
agree Bolingbroke’s complete restoration // Flimnap is secretly opposed to G because
of his appetite.
Flimnap = colorless character // at the end of Queen Anne’s reign Walpole was not
a personage of the 1st rank.
In 1721 Walpole = one the most powerful member of the gvt. In 1726 he is practically
PM // 3 or 4 additional touches were added to give Flimnap additional importance.
“ Flimnap, the treasurer, is allowed to cut a caper on the straight rope at least
an inch higher than any other lord in the whole empire”. This symbolizes Walpole’s
dexterity in parliamentary tactics and political intrigues.
“ The king’s cushion” which broke Flimnap’s fall when he leaps too high symbolizes
the Duchess of Kendal, one of the king’s mistresses by whose influence Walpole, after
his fall from power in 1717, was again restored to favour.
The account of Flimnap’s jealousy of his wife may be an ironical hint at Walpole,
whose 1st wife, Catherine Shorter, was not above suspicion, while Walpole’s indifference
to her levities was notorious.
Redresal is the Lord who explains to G the intricacies of Lilliputian politics and
proved himself his true friend. It is clear that the person meant is Carteret who
was S’s friend and secretary of state from March 5, 1721, to April 14, 1724.
Carteret was made Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1724 by Walpole and thus was obliged
to issue a proclamation offering a £300 reward for the discovery of the author
of The Drapier’s Letters // just as Reldresal is obliged to suggest a method of punishing
his friend G.
There are no references to persons and the allusions to contemporary politics are
The comments of the king of Brob express on many questions the political views of
S’s party, echoing the criticism of the Tories on the financial system.
The king is Swift's mouthpiece : his condemnation of gaming, his complaint of the
neglected education of the upper classes, his theory of the best way of treating
dissenters and his animosity to lawyers.
The visit to the capital of Brob suggests Irish conditions inspired by the beggars
JS'S LIFE : SOME IMPORTANT DATES
1642: The English become the first European people
to overthrow and execute their king, installing the Puritan religious party, led
by Oliver Cromwell, in the monarchy's place.
1660: The Puritans quickly become more unpopular
than any of the British kings, so they cause a civil war that ends with the monarchy
restored under an Anglican king, Charles II.
1667: Jonathan Swift is born to an upper-class British
family living in Dublin, Ireland. (Ireland was then a colony of England.)
His father dies before he's born; his mother abandons him and returns to England.
Swift is raised by a wealthy uncle.
Throughout the rest of the 1600s:
Struggles take place all over Europe over succession to the European thrones.
In England, the reigning Anglican Church and the royal house that represents it are
challenged by the Catholic Stuarts.
Reigning Anglican Tories and Whigs are also conscious of threats posed by the deposed
Puritans, still active in politics, who think the Anglicans are just like the Catholics
and hate them both.
1689: Having been educated at Trinity College in
Dublin, Swift is given a post as secretary to a noted Whig statesman, Sir William
This enables him to live in England instead of Ireland, a situation he prefers and
continues to seek (mostly without success) later in life.
1692: Swift receives an M.A. from Oxford University.
1695: Swift is ordained as a minister in the Anglican
1700: Swift begins his career as a political journalist,
writing in behalf of Whig and/or Tory causes.
1704: Swift publishes his first major satiric work,
"A Tale of a Tub," defending a middle position in British politics.
Around this time he also publishes "A Battle of the Books," in which he
defends the classical works of authors like Virgil and Homer against recent literature
which has not stood the test of time. (Your textbook discusses the Enlightenment
reverence for the classical past on page 294.)
1710: Swift switches parties from the Whigs to the
Tories. The Tories are in power in England at this time, and Swift's writings on
their behalf earn him a place in the political spotlight.
Around this time, Swift also lives in London and joins an "informal literary
club" called the Martinus Scriblerus Club.
It includes many of the leading writers and intellectuals of Swift's day. Cliff's
Notes explains that the literary club "proposed to satirize the follies
and vices of learned, scientific, and modern men," and assigned each member
a topic to be used for that purpose.
Swift's assignment was to "satirize the numerous and popular volumes describing
voyages to faraway lands." Gulliver's Travels was the result, but it
would not actually be published for another ten years.
1713: To Swift's disappointment, the fortunes of
the Tories are in decline and he's given a post in Ireland as the Dean of St. Patrick's
Cathedral in Dublin.
Once there, he becomes a spokesman for the Irish poor and writes his famous essay
"A Modest Proposal," also included in your textbook.
1742: Swift is declared mentally incompetent and
hospitalized. However, there's no evidence that he was ever mentally incompetent
before he became quite elderly. (At this time he's 76, a very advanced
age for the 18th century.)
1745: Swift dies, leaving his estate to build "a
house for fools and mad" (page 428 of your textbook). This hospital still exists
MORE ON THE TRAVELS
These comments were extracted by hand from
- pages 289-94 and 427-30 of our textbook,
- the introduction to Cliff's Notes on Gulliver's
- an essay called "The Pride of Lemuel Gulliver,"
by Samuel Holt Monk, found in the Norton Critical Edition of Gulliver's Travels.
The life of Jonathan Swift spanned a time of significant
religious and political change in England and Europe. As you learned from your reading
of Voltaire, both the monarchy and the absolute power of the Roman Catholic Church
were in decline in the 16th and 17th centuries, during and after the European Enlightenment.
On the other hand, the power of the upper middle class, in particular the banking
and merchant class, was on the rise. The result was political and social instability
That upheaval, and the endless political bickering it caused, are the real subject
of the first two books of Gulliver's Travels, the voyages to Lilliput and
Political commentary also figures in books three
and four, but these books focus primarily on satire of the intellectual establishment
of Swift's time.
According to Samuel Holt Monk, Swift was critical of five key Enlightenment ideas
that went on to become essential assumptions of modern thought. His criticism of
these ideas makes up the substance of books three and four.
Briefly, these ideas are:
- Rationalism and Deism, discussed on page 290 of
your textbook. This is the idea that the world can be understood using reason alone,
that it makes sense, that it's logical, and that even God can be understood by relying
only on common sense.
- Scientific materialism; that is, the idea that
nature can be understood by science, and that science and technology can solve all
- Humanism; that is, faith in the wisdom of man and
the goodness of human nature, whether informed by religion or not. (In practice,
this often leads to atheism, a repudiation of religion, or agnosticism, a repudiation
of the importance of religion.)
- Economic materialism; the growth of an absract
economy based on money rather than on custody of land and care of the things of the
- Big government; that is, the idea that all man's
problems can be solved by centralized political and economic management of social
The intellectual basis for Swift's criticism of
the Enlightenment is also discussed in your handout called "Some thoughts before
Jonathan Swift is a wonderful writer, and all of
his work, especially Gulliver's Travels, is quite funny. Our film version
of the novel, starring Ted Danson, is not so funny. Nor is it successful in presenting
Swift's satire as Swift intended it to be understood. So you might be surprised that
we're showing the movie in class and that I haven't required you to read the excerpts
from Gulliver's Travels that appear in your textbook. Why?
The reason is that the archaic 18th century
English Swift uses is inaccessible to many contemporary readers, in particular ESL
students. Reading parts of it aloud in class helps. So that's what we'll do. If you
read this section on your own at home, I suggest that you begin with chapter IV on
The funniest part spans pages 446-457, chapters IV through VI.
What you'll discover if you read these passages
is that Lemuel Gulliver, the hero of the novel, is totally insane. He's not the sympathetic,
misunderstood but intelligent hero Ted Danson portrays him to be at all.
The Hollywood movie tries to convince you that Gulliver is wrongly believed
to be crazy.
But Gulliver as Swift portrays him truly is insane - quite hilariously so.
The mere fact that he begins by calling a horse "my master" should tell
you this, as should the fact that he chooses to sleep in the barn with horses rather
than at home with his family.
In this class you'll often hear me say that Hollywood
film renditions of classical literature tend to obscure rather than accentuate the
important messages of the stories they interpret.
Why do producer/directors do this? As far as I can tell, it's for two reasons:
(1) They assume that the average American audience
is interested only in light entertainment, and would be put off by intellectual challenge,
(2) They assume that most of the serious messages of a work of literature were important
only to audiences of the time when the work was written; they're outdated today.
Neither assumption is valid, of course.
The Hollywood version is simply a mistake.
It's not as interesting or fun as a faithful interpretation of the text would have
Ted Danson is simply awful as a profound Gulliver who's lunacy is somehow "right."
And when the miniature sheep falls out of Gulliver's satchel, suggesting that there
really is a Lilliput, I can hear Jonathan Swift shrieking in rage in his grave.
But the plot of the movie does follow the story closely, so that if we correct the
distortion of Gulliver's character, we can see what the original is like.
Nevertheless, the satire is hard to understand unless
we do correct our view of Gulliver's character.
This is why the movie seems sort of pointless in places--simply weird for weirdness'
Because the Hollywood version insists on idealizing Gulliver as an unjustly persecuted
wise man who knows the truth, we can only understand the satire when Gulliver really
is smarter than the people around him.
This is the case in Lilliput (Book One) and on the flying island of Laputa or at
the Academy of Balnibari (Book Three).
But what should we make of Book Two, Brobdingnag, when Gulliver is the fool and is
clearly outclassed mentally and morally by the Brobdingnagian giants?
And what about the inconvenient fact that our hero, this supposed model of sanity,
winds up worshipping horses?
Besides, even if worshipping horses seems okay in context, stop and think a little
What about the fact that the horses he worships are smart but cruel?
Here's how Cliff's Notes suggests you see
the situation and characters.
Assume that the bickering noblemen and petty officials
of the courts of Lilliput are real English statesmen (and a real English king) of
The six-inch-high midgets are the "moral midgets"in the Court and Parliament
of Swift's day.
In Lilliput, Swift portrays them as being only six inches tall because this is a
wonderful way to trivialize the significance of their wars, their political jousting,
their endless infighting and backbiting over honors and awards.
But Swift believes Gulliver, who himself is a product
of that kind of society, is incapable of moral perfection.
In other words, there's a higher standard of moral behavior that Gulliver himself
can't understand because he's never seen it.
That standard is represented by the Brobdingnagians. Notice that they aren't merely
big people who behave just like Englishmen.
How are they different?
Well, for starters, they have no war. They don't understand why anyone would consider
gunpowder an achievement or sign of "progress."
They live the Marxist ideal ("from each according to his means, to each according
to his need"). But they need no government coercion to enforce this behavior.
They make sure everyone has enough to eat because they would suffer themselves if
they had to watch anyone go hungry.
Like the Eldoradans in Candide, they also have no church authorities, though
they all worship God.
The most famous line in Gulliver's Travels is
actually uttered by the Queen of Brobdingnag, who says "It is plain that the English are the most odious race of vermin
But this line is also funny. If she were exactly right, it wouldn't be funny. (Think
In the first and second books, Swift's criticism
of English politics is easy to see. And in the third book, Swift's criticism of science
and technology is equally easy to spot.
It's more difficult than it should be to appreciate in the movie. But that's only
because by that time, the movie has long since ceased to be as hilarious as Swift
Even the Struldbruggs, those who seek eternal life, are funny in the book rather
than frightening, as they seem in the movie. (For starters, think about how helpless
they are when they're threatening Gulliver.)
What may be hard to understand is the philosophical
horses, whose story represents Swift's criticism of the Enlightenment philosophies
of Rationalism and Deism (see page 290 of your textbook). Here's what Cliff's
Notes says about them:
"The Houyhnhnms are super-reasonable.
They have all the virtues that the stoics and the Deists advocated. They speak clearly,
they act justly, and have simple laws. They do not quarrel or argue, since each knows
what is true and right…
But they are so reasonable that they have no emotions.
They are untroubled by greed, politics, or lust. They act from undifferentiated benevolence.
They would never prefer the welfare of one of their own children to the welfare of
another Houyhnhnm simply on the basis of kinship.
"Very simply, the Houyhnhnms ARE horses; they
are not humans.
"In contrast to the Houyhnhnms, Swift presents
their precise opposite: the Yahoos, creatures who exhibit the essence of sensual
The Yahoos are not merely animals; they are animals who are naturally vicious…The Yahoos represent Mankind depraved.
"Midway between the poles of the Houyhnhnms
and the Yahoos, Swift places Gulliver. Gulliver is an average man, except that he
has become irrational in his regard for reason.
"The aspiration to become a horse exposes Gulliver's
grave weakness. Gullible and proud, he becomes such a devotee of reason that he cannot
accept his fellow men who are less than totally reasonable. He cannot recognize virtue
and charity when they exist…
Gulliver hates his family because they look and smell like Yahoos.
"Swift discriminates among men as they are
idealized, men as they are damned, men as they possibly could be, and men as they
The Houyhnhnms embody the ideal of the rationalists and the stoics…(but) Swift…shows
us that the super-reasonable horses are impossible and useless models for men.
They have never fallen and therefore they have never been redeemed. They are incapable
of the Christian virtues which unite passion and reason: neither they nor the Yahoos
are touched by grace or charity. In contrast, the Christian virtues of Pedro de Mendez
(the pirate captain who rescues Gulliver) and the Brobdingnagians are possible to
These virtues are the result of grace and redemption."
Philosophically, Swift's thought closely resembles
that of the nineteenth century Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky. More than a hundred
years after Swift's death, Dostoevsky came to similar conclusions about modernity,
especially when contrasted with the teachings of traditional Christianity.
But it's important to remember this : Although Swift
and Dostoevsky both view Christianity as the antidote to modernity, you need not
be a Christian to understand what upset these two men about the post-Enlightement
era of history.
Neither man was convinced that technological advancement would always be progress.
Neither man believed that mankind could decide for himself what happiness was, or
how people ought to live.
Neither was confident that the common man would vote wisely in political elections,
or that common leaders would govern wisely or well. Neither thought that science
alone could explain the fact of life itself or the mysteries of nature.
And neither trusted a "democratic" future in which a man's human worth,
or the worth of a store or farm or company, would be judged by the number of dollars
in a bank account or the abstract figures of a stock report.
Neither trusted a future in which some men could make money without working for it.
Neither thought people should demand products that could only be made by destroying
lands and animals they never saw. Both found modern life too complex, too abstract,
and too divorced from nature and natural feelings.
Maybe the best way to see Gulliver's Travels
is not so much as a practical joke, even though it was in fact written as a practical
joke, as you'll see (below). Maybe we should see it instead as a one-way ticket to
the Modern World.
See 252 syllabus.
Aprœs la lecture-défrichage
j'ai fait un petit tableau biographique de notre héros.
Ces détails, ainsi que les dates précises des voyages et les noms des
navires participent ù la fameuse "véracité" du récit.
J'ai trouvé cela pratique pour situer le personnage tout au long du roman.
Lemuel Gulliver est né vers 1660
14 Emanuel College, Cambridge (3 ans)
17 devient apprenti de John Bates, médecin (surgeon)
Londres ; s'intéresse aux maths et ù la navigation (4 ans)
21 études ù Leyden ("physick" -- aussi anatomie) (2 ans 7
23/24 médecin de bord (navire "Swallow") (3 1/2 ans)
27/28 s'installe ù Londres, se marie
29/30 mort de Bates ; son cabinet ne va pas fort : s'embarque sur deux bateaux, commence
ù s'intéresser aux coutumes des pays 36 s'installe ù Wapping,
soigne des marins (3 ans)
Gulliver a ù peu prœs 39 ans quand il s'embarque pour Lilliput.
[départ, arrivée: d'Angleterre]
voyage (Antelope) ca. 3 ans
passe presque 2 ans ù Lilliput (et Blefuscu)
May 4th, 1699 départ
Nov 5th, 1699 quitte le bateau en péril
Sept 22, 1701 pris ù bord d'un bateau marchand anglais
Apr 13, 1702 arrivée
passe 2 mois avec sa famille
voyage (Adventure) ca. 4 ans
passe 2 ans 3 mois ù Brobdingnag
June 20th, 1702 départ
June 17th, 1703 débarque ù Brobdingnag
ca. Nov, 1703 arrive ù la court du roi
ca. Sept, 1705 s'envole de Brobdingnag, pris Æ bord d'un bateau angl.
June 3rd, 1706 arrivée
passe 2 mois avec sa famille
voyage ca. 3 ans 8 mois
passe ca. 2 ans ù Laputa, Balnibarbi (capitale: Lagado),
Aug 5th, 1706 départ
Apr 11th, 1707 Fort St George (Madras, East India Company)
ca. May, 1707 débarqué par les pirates dans un cano•
May 6th, 1709 départ du royaume de Luggnag
June 9th, 1709 arrivée a Nangasac (Nagasaki), embarque sur
un navire hollandais
Apr 6th, 1710 arrive ù Amsterdam
Apr 10th, 1710 arrivée
passe 5 mois avec sa famille
voyage (Adventure) 5 ans 3 mois
passe presque 4 ans avec les Houyhnhnms
Sept 7th, 1710 départ
early 1711 mutinerie
May 9th, 1711 mis ù terre par les mutins
Feb 15th, 1715 chassé par les Houyhnhnms, part en cano•
pris ù bord du navire portugais (Pedro de Mendez)
Nov 5th, 1715 arrivée ù Lisbon
Nov 24th, 1715 départ de Lisbon
Dec 5th, 1715 arrivée
ége de Gulliver: ca. 55 ans au retour du dernier voyage
Il "écrit" la lettre (prétendument en réaction ù
la premiœre publication de GT en 1726) en avril 1727, ù l'ége
de ca. 67 ans.