Edited by: Brean Hammond
This book offers an accessible, single-volume introduction to a wider range of Jonathan Swift's writing than is usually covered in such treatments of him. Primarily a work of biographically-inflected literary criticism, it draws on insights furnished by feminist and postcolonial literary theories when those are relevant. Its portrait of this charismatic writer confronts the complexities in character, style, and rhetorical posture that make him enduring and important. Swift is situated as a career-clergyman rather than an imaginative writer, whose ecclesiastical politics, geographical and national situation in Ireland, and obliquities of temperament made him the challenging writer he was. Commencing with an account of the domestic and foreign contexts in which Swift's life was rooted, the book provides a chronological account of that life, putting appropriate emphasis on its controversial and contested nature. His writing is examined chronologically, progressing through his early writing, early religious satire, English political and personal writings, and the Irish phase of his life and writing. Intersecting those sequential chapters are thematic and textual chapters. The thematic chapters engage with the nature of Swift's religion and of his relationships with women. Textual chapters are devoted to Swift's too often neglected poetic achievement and to Gulliver's Travels. The book's privileging of Gulliver's Travels needs no apology: this is still the work of fiction upon which Swift's reputation as an imaginative writer rests. Two full chapters are accorded to it in which it is restored to the Irish context of its composition. Additionally, in the chapter on Swift's Irish religious and political writings, the missing religious dimension of Gulliver's Travels - a work that draws on Utopian writing and might have said something about Utopian religion - is considered as part of an analysis of Swift's religious vocation.
Publication Date: 1/1/2010