An older Norton Critical, one-third essays & supplementals. The critical writings are all 1950s material, so a nice snapshot of what professionals were doing 60 years ago. The center of theoretical gravity appears to have been shifting away from biographically-oriented attacks on Swift as crazed misanthrope to formalist readings of the text itself.
Principal text really should stand next to [b:Frankenstein|18490|Frankenstein|Mary Shelley|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1311647465s/18490.jpg|4836639] and [b:Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde|51496|The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde|Robert Louis Stevenson|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1318116526s/51496.jpg|3164921] as one of the key texts in the history of science fiction.
It is likewise one of the key texts in the history of irony, and professor Frye has identified it part of the long tradition of menippean satire in his Anatomy of Criticism
. The force of the satire arises out of Swift's nasty, intolerant, myopic conservatism--he looks at the early modern age and the Enlightenment and is horrified when all that is solid melts into air (especially in IV.vi). That said, it's still very effective writing, even if the politics are insipid beyond measure.
I found myself chuckling audibly at all of the scatological humor, so I must be some kind of philistine--such as when Gulliver "disburthened" himself in the micronians’ “ancient Temple” while “under great Difficulties between Urgency and Shame” (12), or as when some Laputan scientists wish to "reduce human Excrement to its original Food" (153), or when the ape-creatures of Houyhnhnmland “began to discharge their Excrements on my Head” (194), or again when narrator describes “Hnea Yahoo
or the Yahoo’s Evil
,” which was cured by “a Mixture of their own Dung and Urine, forcibly put down the Yahoo’s Throat,” commending, “this I have since often known to have been taken with Success: And do here freely recommend it to my Countrymen, for the publick Good, as an admirable Specifick against all Diseases produced by Repletion” (228).
Though I may not be equal to the task, something might be made of all the express omissions scattered throughout he text. First level of omission is the faux publisher, who tells us that “This Volume would have been at least twice as large, if I had not made bold to strike out innumerable Passages relating to the Winds and Tides, as well as to the Variations and Bearings in the several Voyages; together with the minute Descriptions of the Management of the Ship in Storms, in the Style of Sailors: Likewise the Account of the Longitudes and Latitudes; wherein I have reason to apprehend that Mr. Gulliver may be a little dissatisfied” (viii-ix).
The second level is narrator himself: the second voyage proceeds from the admission that “upon strict Review, I blotted out several Passages of less Moment” (73). The fourth voyage insists that, though narrator has related conversations of substance that he had with his equine master, “but have indeed for Brevity sake omitted much more than is here set down” (225). He also “shall not trouble the Reader with a particular Description of my own Mechanicks” in building his escape vessel (246).
Toothing on the Elizabethan sonneteer’s vessel metaphor, or dirty Jack Donne’s “until I labor I in labor lie,” or Milton’s double-voiced use of conversation
in the divorce papers and Paradise Lost
, I suspect that the omissions recounted, supra
, constitute an erotics sous rature
, repressed by censorial editing.
But the repressed always returns, as we well know: Gulliver has certainly reported some bizarre accusations of sexual congress, which, due to the way the omissions are structured, are all actual moments of sexual intercourse that the narration has failed to present directly:
“I am here obliged to vindicate the Reputation of an excellent Lady, who was an innocent Sufferer upon my Account […] I own she came often to my House” in voyage to Lilliput (45-46);
“The handsomest among these Maids of Honour, a pleasant frolicksome Girl of sixteen, would sometimes set me astride upon one of her Nipples; with many other Tricks
, wherein the reader will excuse me for not being overly particular,” while in Brobdingnag (95-96) (emphasis added);
“I immediately stripped myself stark naked, and went down softly into the Stream. It happened that a young Female Yahoo standing behind a Bank, saw the whole Proceeding; and inflamed by Desire […] She embraced me after a most fulsome Manner” on the fourth voyage (232-33);
And, after rejecting his wife as “that odious Animal,” the “first Money I laid out was to buy two young Stone-Horses, which I keep in a good Stable, and next to them the Groom is my greatest Favourite; for I feel my Spirits revived by the Smell he contracts in the Stable. My Horses understand me tolerably well; I converse
with them at least four Hours every Day” (254) (emphasis added).
So, yeah: the layers of omissions in the narration mean that Gulliver porked his way through the voyages, searching out strange new life forms for fucking, like Captain Kirk, basically--and then “conversed” daily with regular stallions at home. The only way to make this review more scurrilous on this point is to suggest that the necromantic arts in Glubbdubdribb, parody of ancient katabasis
scenes (in the manner of Lucan’s inversion in the Pharsalia
) and Marlowe’s fairly straight “face that launched a thousand ships” bit, is all about summoning undead sex-dolls. Absurd? Be the judge of the relevant omission: “It would be tedious to trouble the Reader with relating what the vast Numbers of illustrious Persons were called up, to gratify that insatiable Desire I had to see the World of every Period of Antiquity placed before me […] But it is impossible to express the Satisfaction I received in my own Mind” (167-68).
Otherwise, very cool bits in the third section, which is something of a miscellany that Swift tacked on after the other three voyages were written, including the immortal Struldbruggs, which form a satiric link between Tithonus of the Homeric Hymns and Ovid’s Sibyl on the one hand, and Scott Bakker’s Cunuroi on the other.