Category Archives: Swift (Jonathan)

GOP Denies a Giant Problem

Faced with climate change denialism, Obama has been forced to take executive action. Jonathan Swift would understand.

Posted in Swift (Jonathan) | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Meditation upon a Broom (April Fool!)

Swift’s “Meditation on a Broomstick” could well have been an April Fool’s joke.

Posted in Swift (Jonathan) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Modest Proposal for Shooting Students

Reacting against a proposal to allow guns on Idaho campuses, an Idaho professor has come up with a modest proposal of his own.

Posted in Swift (Jonathan) | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Stewart Should Learn from Jonathan Swift

Jon Stewart may be one of our leading satirists, but satire comes up short in handling this country’s healthcare crisis.

Posted in Swift (Jonathan) | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Depressing News? Read Gulliver

If you ever feel that humans are nothing more than Yahoos, Swift urges us to remember that there are good Samaritans amongst us.

Posted in Swift (Jonathan) | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Swift and Food Stamp Cuts

What would Jonathan Swift say to GOP radicals who seek to cut food stamps.

Posted in Swift (Jonathan) | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Getting Tied Down in Syria

Is there a danger that U.S. involvement in Syria will lead to a Gulliver-like disaster?

Posted in Swift (Jonathan) | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

God Does Not Leave Us Comfortless

As my father struggles to retain his memory, I think of Jonathan Swift.

Also posted in Kenyon (Jane) | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Swift’s Spectacular April Fool’s Joke

Jonathan Swift Bickerstaff papers are the ultimate satiric attack on astrology.

Posted in Swift (Jonathan) | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Only Comic Satire Can Do NRA Justice

It takes a Joseph Heller or a Jonathan Swift to capture the craziness of the NRA.

Also posted in Heller (Joseph) | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

If They Lose, Irish Can Turn to Poetry

Even if they lose the national championship game, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame have Ireland’s poetic legacy to fall back on.

Also posted in Joyce (James), Yeats (William Butler) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The NRA’s Modest Proposal

The NRA’s call for armed guards in every school sounds like Swift’s “Modest Proposal”–only the NRA is serious.

Posted in Swift (Jonathan) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Obama, Idealist or Realist?

2010 in Review There was an interesting dust-up last week amongst conservative intellectuals following the release of some more Richard Nixon tapes. Henry Kissinger can be heard making the following cold-blooded remark about Soviet Jews in 1973: “Let’s face it: The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign […]

Posted in Swift (Jonathan) | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments closed

Lit and Our Impoverished Political Culture

I’ve been thinking about how shallow and dishonest political speech has become in recent years. Then again, maybe it’s always been like this and I’m just noticing it more. When politics enter the picture, it appears that people start becoming stupid. Outlandish claims and ridiculous reasoning are either (1) accepted as factual or (2) seen […]

Also posted in Austen (Jane), Twain (Mark) | Tagged , , , | Comments closed

Laura Ingraham Is No Jonathan Swift

Since I wrote about Swiftian satire yesterday, I was interested when a current political satirist was contrasted with Swift in yesterday’s Washington Post. Laura Ingraham has a new book out which purports to be the secret diaries of Bo, the White House dog.  In his review Steven Levingston concludes that, while the book is sometimes […]

Posted in Swift (Jonathan) | Tagged , , , , , | Comments closed

Mothers “Dropping” Babies?!

First, congratulations to Elena Kagan for being the fourth woman chosen to the U. S. Supreme Court. I have written about Kagan’s love for Pride and Prejudice here, as well as the reasons why, given a choice, it’s better to have a Pride and Prejudice lover than a Wuthering Heights lover on the Court (click […]

Posted in Swift (Jonathan) | Tagged , , , , | Comments closed

Emily Dickinson’s Deathbed Fly

Okay, here is a second post on poems about small winged pests, written in honor of President Obama’s cool and cold-blooded killing of a fly. When I was a child, I used to enjoy the poem about “the funny old lady who swallowed a fly.” It is one of those repetition poems, with a new […]

Also posted in Dickinson (Emily), Donne (John), Golding (William), Grimm Brothers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Bush, Obama, and Gulliver’s Travels

I return for one last time to Swift, who provides invaluable perspectives for understanding contemporary politics. Swift was a shrewd student of political dynamics. His satire is often an allegorical depiction of real life people and incidents, and if one knows one’s history, one can read parts of Gulliver’s Travels as a roman à clé, […]

Posted in Swift (Jonathan) | Tagged , , , , , | Comments closed

Can Satire Change Lives?

  For a website devoted to whether and how literature can change lives, satire presents a special case. That’s because satire seems to have changing lives as its goal. Because of this apparent agenda, it fell out of favor with the high culture crowd in the heyday of the New Criticism.  The New Critics, who […]

Posted in Swift (Jonathan) | Tagged , , , | Comments closed

The Symbolism of Cutting up Bodies

William Hogarth, The Fourth Stage of Cruelty  There are a number of images of cutting up human bodies in Swift’s satire. In this post I am going to explore why. In Book I of Gulliver’s Travels, the Lilliputians, when they want to punish Gulliver for his “traitorous” decision not to obliterate Blefescu, consider starving him […]

Posted in Swift (Jonathan) | Tagged , | Comments closed

Swift’s Attack on Cynicism

Venturing into the heated atmosphere of Supreme Court confirmation politics yesterday is a nice lead-in to my topic for today, which is the temptation to become so disgusted with human behavior that we throw up our hands and walk away. Or, since walking away is not really an option, the fantasy of doing so. Jonathan […]

Posted in Swift (Jonathan) | Tagged , , , | Comments closed

Silencing Inner Doubts through Fanaticism

Continuing the discussion on how Gulliver’s Travels can help us handle the challenges of political disillusion, I turn to Book II, where Gulliver finds himself stranded in the land of the giant Brobdingnags. In Book I, as I noted in the last entry, Gulliver can remain aloof from human perversity—and when, in the end, it […]

Posted in Swift (Jonathan) | Tagged , , , | Comments closed

Using Gullibility as a Shield vs. Disillusion

In Book I of Gulliver’s Travels, Gulliver lives in a world where he can be “above it all.” He can afford to be open-minded and generous because most issues don’t really affect him. Although he is, as his name suggests, gullible, it is gullibility that he can get away with. I stress this point because […]

Posted in Swift (Jonathan) | Tagged , , , | Comments closed

Swift, Obama, and Idealism

Like many Americans, I was excited, inspired, and rendered hopeful by the election of Barack Obama as president last November. I felt that, at long last, we could accomplish great things in this country. I have also been thinking how I will respond when my high hopes run up against reality. At least I’m old […]

Posted in Swift (Jonathan) | Tagged , , , | Comments closed

  • AVAILABLE NOW!

  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

  • Sign up for weekly newsletter

    Your email will not be shared or sold.
    * = required field

    powered by MailChimp!
  • Twitter Authentication data is incomplete