Tag Archives: Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver, Recommended for Scientists

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s favorite book to recommend is not a book of science but Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels.” This shows him to be a very wise man.

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If Swift Had Known Donald Trump…

Jonathan Swift would have had a field day with Donald Trump. I suspect I’ll say this often in the upcoming years.

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The Rich Complain about Shaming

Some wealthy Americans are receiving therapy to make them feel better about their riches. Swift would have something to say about this, as would F. Scott Fitzgerald and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu.

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Trump, Prince Vasili, and Pure Cynicism

Prince Vasili in “War and Peace” will say anything to come out on top. He’s a lot like Donald Trump.

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Can Lit Help Build an Egalitarian World?

Neo-Marxist literary theory calls for us to see literature as relevant to building an egalitarian society.

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Trump as Frankenstein’s Monster

What is it about Donald Trump that brings out the literary analogies? First a Salon columnist compared him to Odysseus’s Cyclops, then the New Yorker’s John Cassidy saw him as Gulliver, and most recently Rachel Maddow of MSNBC and others have compared him to Frankenstein’s monster. I’ve written about the Cyclops parallel here, but let’s take […]

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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.

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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.

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Swift and Food Stamp Cuts

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

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Getting Tied Down in Syria

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

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Only Comic Satire Can Do NRA Justice

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

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Analyzing Loughner’s Booklist

Like much of America, I am still in a state of shock over Saturday’s shooting of a Congresswoman, a judge, and 16 others. Like many I wonder if this was an example of a disturbed mind encountering the inflamed political rhetoric that has come to characterize American political discourse. (Add Arizona’s permissive gun laws into […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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, […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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