David Womersley & Paddy Bullard M. St in English, ‘C’ Option: ‘Jonathan Swift’ mst c option ht2008




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David Womersley & Paddy Bullard
M.St. in English, ‘C’ Option: ‘Jonathan Swift’

MSt C option HT2008
The M.St. ‘C’ option on Jonathan Swift is designed to give students a comprehensive survey of Swift’s writings, an approach to the intellectual and literary contexts for his work, and an introduction to the latest developments in Swift studies.
This is an enormously exciting time to begin postgraduate work on Swift. Cambridge University Press have recently commissioned a new fifteen-volume edition of his writings, and five of the volume editors (including David Womersley, editor of Gulliver’s Travels and general editor, who is running this course) teach at the University of Oxford. Two other major Swift publication projects are in progress, David Woolley’s new four-volume edition of the Correspondence, and Passmann and Vienken’s eight-volume account of the Library and Reading of Jonathan Swift – and their likely impact upon the study of Swift is only beginning to be felt. The course offers students an opportunity to join the academic conversation about Swift at a time of intense scholarly interest and critical reassessment for this major figure in English letters.

JONATHAN SWIFT. M.St. HT 2008: An Outline of the Course.


Week 1: Satire, Ecclesiology, Devotion.

The first week of the course is dedicated to a central problem in Swift’s writing: the question of what Swift believed, and of what he thought about belief. We consider the intellectual character of his satire, the quality of his Christianity, his autobiographical impulses, and the force of his aggression toward heterodoxy.


Core Texts: A Tale of a Tub.

Miscellanies (1711)

‘The Sentiments of a Church of England Man’.



A Project for the Advancement of Religion, and Mr. Collins’s Discourse

Essays, Divine, Moral, and Political (1714)
Week 2: Language, Style and Form.

In the second week we examine Swift’s interventions into the range of eighteenth-century debates about ‘politeness’. They included inquiries into the nature of literary refinement, the progress of poetry, the conditions of intellectual improvement and corruption, and projects for reforming the English language.


Core Texts: Tatler 230 and A Proposal for Correcting the English Tongue.

‘Hints Towards an Essay on Conversation’ and ‘A Compleat Collection’.

‘On Poetry. A Rapsody’.
Polite Conversation.
Modest Defence of Punning.
Discourse to Prove the Antiquity of the English Tongue

Dryden, ‘Preface’ to Sylvae


Week 3: Swift and Others.

In week three we move between a set of perspectives on Swift’s sociability: his attitudes to domesticity, scatology and intimacy; his practises of coterie formation, collaborative publication and manuscript circulation; and the intellectual contexts of his ideas about loyalty, conversation and friendship.


Core Texts: Journal to Stella, and Swift’s correspondence with Pope, Arbuthnot &c.

Cadenus and Vanessa, the 1734 Roberts poems (‘Beautiful Young Nymph’, ‘Strephon and Chloe’), ‘The Lady’s Dressing Room’.
‘Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift’.

Memoirs of Scriblerus and The Intelligencer.
Week 4: The Experience of Politics.

In the fourth week we engage with Swift’s complicated political allegiances, the rhetorical strategies of his polemical writings, his ideas about Ireland and the British constitution, and the central importance of his friendship and rivalry with two prominent political opponents, Richard Steele and Joseph Addison.


Core Texts: The ‘Drapier’s Letters’ The Examiner and The Medley
Conduct of the Allies
, Importance of the Guardian, The Publick Spirit of the Whigs, Swift’s imitation of Horace, Ep. I.vii.
Week 5: Gulliver’s Travels.

We look in detail at the text and publication of Gulliver. We will focus on variant readings, the competing claims of the 1726 and 1735 texts, the circumstances of composition (insofar as these can be determined), problems of annotation, and Swift’s playfully aggressive stance towards his later editors and readers.


Week 6: Late Swift
In the final week we consider the extraordinary asperities of emotion and of style in Swift’s late writings. We will also consider the complicated and shifting relation of writings to life in the final phase of Swift’s life. Those taking the course may wish to look at Edward Said, On Late Style (New York, 2006).

Core Texts: A Modest Proposal, A Proposal for Giving Badges to Beggars, An Examination of Certain Abuses, Directions to Servants, ‘The Legion Club’.



Jonathan Swift (1667-1745): A Preliminary Book List for the M.St Course.


Editions.    The Oxford Authors: Jonathan Swift ed. Angus Ross and David Woolley (Oxford, 1984) is a good basic selection. It should be supplemented by the new World’s Classics paperback of Gulliver’s Travels, eds. Claude Rawson and Ian Higgins (OUP, 2005), and the Complete Poems ed. Pat Rogers (Penguin, 1983), plus (if you’re lucky enough to find it) Swift’s Irish Pamphlets ed. Joseph McMinn (Smythe, 1991). But masters candidates should also make themselves familiar with the standard library edition (unannotated, but with fine introductions) of Swift’s prose works:


  • The Prose Works of Jonathan Swift, ed. Herbert Davis et al., 14 vols. (Oxford: Blackwell/Shakespeare Head, 1939-74).

Vol. I, A Tale of a Tub and other Early Works 1696-1707, ed. Herbert Davis (1939).

Vol. II, Bickerstaff Papers and Pamphlets on the Church, ed. Herbert Davis (1940).

Vol. III, The Examiner and Other Pieces Written in 1710-11, ed. Herbert Davis (1941).

Vol. IV, A Proposal for Correcting the English Tongue, Polite Conversation, Etc., ed. Herbert Davis (1957).

Vol. V, Miscellaneous and Autobiographical Pieces, Fragments, and Marginalia, ed. Herbert Davis (1962).

Vol. VI, Political Tracts 1711-13, ed. Herbert Davis (1951).

Vol. VII, The History of the Four Last Years of the Queen, ed. Herbert Davis & Harold Williams (1951).

Vol. VIII, Political Tracts 1713-1719, ed. Herbert Davis and Irvin Ehrenpreis (1953).

Vol. IX, 1720-1723 Tracts relating to England. Letters to Clergyman and Poet. Sermons, ed. Herbert Davis; intro. to the sermons by Louis A. Landa (1948).

Vol. X, The Drapier's Letters and other Works 1724-1725, ed. Herbert Davis (1941).

Vol. XI, 1726 Gulliver's Travels, ed. Herbert Davis (1941).

Vol. XII, Irish Tracts 1728-1733, ed. Herbert Davis (1955).

Vol. XIII, Directions to Servants and Miscellaneous Pieces 1733-1742, ed. Herbert Davis (1959).

Vol. XIV, Index to the Prose Writings, compiled by Irvin Ehrenpreis (1968).



The standard edition of the Correspondence is in 5 volumes, ed. Harold Williams (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963-65), although the first three of four volumes of David Wooley’s new edition (New York: Peter Lang, 1999-) have now appeared – still lacking an index, alas. There are several annotated editions of individual works, which should be used wherever possible.

  • A Discourse of the Contests and Dissentions between the Nobles and the Commons in Athens and Rome, ed. Frank H. Ellis (Oxford: Clarendon, 1967).

  • The Intelligencer (with Thomas Sheridan), ed. James Woolley (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992).

  • Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus (with Pope, Arbuthnot, Gay, etc.), ed. Charles Kerby-Miller (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1950).

  • Swift vs. Mainwaring: The Examiner and the Medley, ed. Frank H. Ellis (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985).

  • A Tale of a Tub, ed. A. C. Guthkelch and D. Nichol Smith, 2nd ed. (Clarendon Press, 1958).

  • The Drapier's Letters, ed. Herbert Davis (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1935).

  • Journal to Stella, ed. Herbert Williams, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1948; Blackwell, 1974, uniform with the Davis Prose Works as volumes XV and XVI).




Standard works of Reference.

  • Dirk F. Passmann and Heinz J. Vienken, The Library and Reading of Jonathan Swift: A Bio-Bibliographical Handbook 8 vols. (Lang, 2003-).

  • Jeanne K. Welcher and George E. Bush (eds.), Gulliveriana, 8 vols. (Scholar’s Facsimiles, 1970-1999). A marvellous hodge-podge of sequels, responses, imitations and ephemera.

  • Irvin Ehrenpreis, Swift: The Man, His Works, and the Age (London: Methuen, 1962-83). In three volumes: Vol. I, Mr. Swift and his Contemporaries (1962); Vol. II, Dr. Swift (1967); Vol. III, Dean Swift (1983)

  • Poems on Affairs of State: Augustan Satirical Verse, 1660-1714: Volume VII, 1704-1714, ed. Frank Ellis (Yale, 1975)

  • John Boyle, Lord Orrery, Remarks on the Life and Writings of Dr. Jonathan Swift (London, 1752), ed. Joao Froes (Newark.: Univ. of Delaware Press, 2000).

  • Arthur H. Scouten and Herman Teerink, A Bibliography of the Writings of Jonathan Swift, 2nd ed. (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1963).

  • Kathleen Williams, ed., Swift: The Critical Heritage (London: Routledge, 1970)

  • Michael Shinagel, A Concordance to the Poems of Jonathan Swift (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1972). Keyed to Harold Williams's earlier edition of the poems.

  • The Account Books of Jonathan Swift, ed. Dorothy Thompson and Paul Thompson (Newark: Univ. of Delaware Press, 1984).

  • Swift Studies, ed. Hermann Real (1988-). A scholarly annual.





Surveys and Recommended Reading.

  • David Nokes, Jonathan Swift, A Hypocrite Revers’d: A Critical Biography (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1985). Excellent place to start, and a good, quick read.

  • Edward Said, ‘Swift’s Tory Anarchy’, in The World, the Text and the Critic (Harvard, 1983). Also in Wood's anthology below. Concerns the resistance of Swift's texts to critical 'acquisitiveness' – how the text refuse to be restored to themselves.

  • Herbert Davis, ‘The Poetry of Jonathan Swift’, College English 2.2 (1940), 102-115.

  • Margaret Ann Doody, ‘Swift Among the Women’, YES 18 (1988), 68-92.

  • J. A. Downie, Robert Harley and the Press: Propaganda and the Public Opinion in the Age of Swift and Defoe (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1979). See also Jonathan Swift: Political Writer (London: Routledge, 1984).

  • Carole Fabricant, Swift's Landscape (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1982).

  • Christopher Fox, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Swiift (CUP, 2003).

  • Dustin Griffin, 'Swift and Patronage', Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, 21 (1992), 197-205.

  • Brean Hammond, ‘Scriblerian Self-Fashioning’, Yearbook of English Studies 18 (1988), 108-22. His "Gulliver's Travels": Open Guides to Literature (Philadelphia: Milton Keynes, 1988) is also good.

  • Maurice Johnson, The Sin of Wit: Jonathan Swift as a Poet (Syracuse: Syracuse Univ. Press, 1950). Still the best book on Swift’s poetry, bad as it is.

  • Warren Montag, The Unthinkable Swift: The Spontaneous Philosophy of a Church of England Man (Verso, 1994). Late po-mo readings. See also ‘Gulliver's Solitude: The Paradoxes of Swift's Anti-Individualism’, Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation 42, no. 1 (2001), 3-19.

  • Walter Ong, ‘Swift on the Mind: the myth of asepsis’, MLQ, 15 (1954), 208-21.

  • Robert Phiddian, Swift's Parody (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1995).

  • Martin Price, Swift's Rhetorical Art: a Study in Structure and Meaning (Yale, 1953).

  • Claude Rawson, God, Gulliver and Genocide: Barbarism and the European Imagination, 1492-1945 (Oxford, 2001). Monumental meditation on Swift's diagnosis of human viciousness, and his refusal to find arguments of self-exculpation. Rawson's earlier book on Swift, Gulliver and the Gentle Reader: Studies in Swift and our Time (London, 1973) contains the most important single consideration of the nature of Swift's irony.

  • John Richardson, ‘Swift, A Modest Proposal and Slavery’, Essays in Criticism, 51, no. 4 (2001), 404-23. See also Richardson’s ‘Christian and/or Ciceronian: Swift and Gulliver's Fourth Voyage’, Cambridge Quarterly [which is kept in Bod stacks] 30, no. 1 (2001), 37-49.

  • Brian Vickers, ‘Swift and the Baconian Idle’, and ‘The Satiric Structure of GT and More’s Utopia’, in Vickers, ed., The World of Jonathan Swift, 87-128, 233-257.

  • Marcus Walsh, ‘Text, "Text" and Swift’s A Tale of a Tub’ Modern Language Review 85 (1990), 290-303.

  • Kathleen Williams, ‘Restoration Themes in the Major Satires of Swift’, RES, 16 (1965), 258-71.


Anthologies of Essays.

  • Ernest Tuveson, ed., Swift: A Collection of Critical Essays (Prentice-Hall, 1964), includes Norman O. Brown’s ‘Excremental Vision’, and Mack and Ehrenpreis on Gulliver. Better than A. Norman Jeffares, ed., Fair Liberty Was All His Cry (Macmillan, 1967), a volume of older agenda-setting essays by Davis, Leavis, Orwell, etc..

  • Brian Vickers, ed., The World of Jonathan Swift (Oxford: Blackwell, 1968). Best of the earlier anthologies, especially Vickers on Swift and Bacon, and Geoffrey Hill on Swift’s poetry.

  • Claude Rawson, ed., The Character of Swift's Satire: A Revised Focus (Newark, 1983).

  • Frederik Smith, ed., The Genres of ‘Gulliver’s Travels’, (Newark, 1990).

  • Reading Swift: Papers from the Second Munster Symposium, ed. Richard H. Rodino and Hermann J Real (1993). This seems to be the best collection in this series: proceedings from earlier Munster symposiums have been published in 1995, 1998 and 2003.

  • Christopher Fox and Brenda Tooley, eds., Walking Naboth’s Vineyard: New Studies of Swift (Notre Dame, 1995).

  • Aileen Douglas, Patrick Kelly and Ian Campbell Ross, eds., Locating Swift (Four Courts, 1998). Good specialized essays, others a bit thin.

  • Swift: The Enigmatic Dean, ed. Rudolf Freiburg et al, (Tubingen, 1998). Festschrift for Hermann Real.

  • Longman Critical Readers: Jonathan Swift ed. Nigel Wood (Longman, 1999). Useful anthology of criticism, with emphasis on post-structuralist readings.





Politics, Language, Historiography, Polemic and Ireland.

  • Charles Allen Beaumont, Swift’s Classical Rhetoric (Georgia, 1961)

  • Ann Cline Kelly, Swift and the English Language (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1988).

  • Daniel Eilon, Factions' Fictions: Ideological Closure in Swift's Satire (Newark: Univ. of Delaware Press, 1991).

  • Joseph Levine, The Battle of the Books: History and Literature in the Augustan Age (Cornell, 1991). Deep context for the ‘ancients versus moderns’ debate.

  • Mark McDayter, ‘The Haunting of St. James's Library: Librarians, Literature, and The Battle of the Books’, Huntington Library Quarterly 66, no. 1-2 (2003), 1-26.

  • Adam Potkay, ‘Hume's 'Supplement to Gulliver': The Medieval Volumes of The History of England’, Eighteenth-Century Life 25, no. 2 (2001), 32-46.

  • Herbert Davis, ‘The Augustan Conception of History’, in Jonathan Swift: Essays on his Satire and other Studies (OUP, 1964), 277-92.

  • Simon Varey, ‘Exemplary History and Political Satire in GT’, in The Genres of ‘Gulliver’s Travels’, ed. Frederik Smith (Newark, 1990), 42-9.

  • Frank Palmeri, ‘The Historian as Satirist and Satirized’, in eds., Douglas et al., Locating Swift, 82-93.

  • Irvin Ehrenpreis, ‘The Wholeness of History: Social Theory and Literary Criticism’, Swift Studies 19 (2004), 5-16.

  • T.N. Corns, W.A. Speck, & J.A. Downie, ‘Archetypal Mystification: Polemic and Reality in English Political Literature, 1640-1750’, Eigheenth-Century Life, 7 (1982), 1-27.

  • J.A. Downie, ‘Polemical Strategy and Swift’s Conduct’, Prose Studies 4 (1981), 134-45.

  • Ian Higgins, Swift's Politics: A Study in Disaffection (Cambridge, 1994). Unlike Lock or Downie, Higgins gets to the bottom of Swift: his extremism. On the other hand, the central argument of this book, that Swift was a conviction Jacobite, remains unconvincing. Nevertheless, the best book on his politics.

  • Bertrand Goldgar, Walpole and the Wits: The Relation of Politics to Literature, 1722-1742 (Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1976).

  • Declan Kiberd, ‘Jonathan Swift: A Colonial Outsider?’ and ‘Home and Away: GT’, in Irish Classics (Granta, 2000), 71-107.

  • Louis Landa, Swift and the Church of Ireland (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1954)

  • F.P. Lock, The Politics of Gulliver's Travels (Clarendon, 1980). Lock’s other book on Swift is Swift's Tory Politics (Duckworth, Delaware, 1983)

  • Alan T. Mackenzie, ‘Proper Words in Proper Places: Syntax and Substantive in The Conduct of the Allies’, Eighteenth-Century Studies, 1 (1968), 253-260.

  • Joseph McMinn, ‘A Weary Patriot: Swift and Anglo-Irish Identity’, Eighteenth-Century Ireland 2 (1987), 104. See also his ‘Jonathan’s Travels: Swift’s Sense of Ireland’, Swift Studies 7 (1992)

  • Vivian Mercier, ‘Swift and the Gaelic Tradition’, in Jeffares (ed.), Fair Liberty… (London, 1967)

  • Robert Mahony, Jonathan Swift: The Irish Identity (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1995)

  • Paul Muldoon, To Ireland, I (OUP, 2000) – a quick splicing of Swift and Sterne.

  • Edward Rosenheim, 'Swift and the Martyred Monarch', Philological Quarterly 54 (1975)





Gulliver and A Tale of a Tub.

  • Terry Castle, ‘Why the Houynnhnms Don’t Write: Swift, Satire and the Fear of the Text’, Essays in Literature, 7 (1980), 31-44.

  • Robert Fitzgerald, ‘Science and Politics in Swift’s Laputa’, JEGP 87 (1988), 213-29.

  • J. Paul Hunter, 'Gulliver's Travels and the Novel', in The Genres of Gulliver's Travels, ed. F.N. Smith, (Delaware, 1990)

  • James E. Gil, ‘Discovery and Alienation, Nature and Reason in GT I-III’, TSL 22 (1977), 85-104. Work on Pascal and Swift here.

  • Ian Higgins, ‘Swift and Sparta: Nostalgia in GT’, MLR 78 (1983), 513-31.

  • Hugh Kenner, The Counterfeiters: An Historical Comedy (Johns Hopkins, 1985).

  • F. P. Lock, The Politics of Gulliver's Travels (Clarendon: Oxford, 1980).

  • Jenny Mezciems, ‘The Unity of Swift’s “Voyage to Laputa”: Structure as Menaing in Utopian Fiction’, MRL 72 (1977), 1-21.

  • –––, ‘Utopia and “The Thing which is not|”: More, Swift and Other Lying Idealists’, University of Toronto Quarterly 52 (1982), 40-62.

  • Richard H. Rodino, ‘Splendide Mendax: Authors, Characters and Readers in GT’’, in Reading Swift: Papers from the Second Munster Symposium, ed. Richard H. Rodino and Hermann J Real (1993)

  • Claude Rawson, ‘Gulliver and Others: Reflections on Swift’s ‘I’ narrators’, in Swift: The Enigmatic Dean, ed. Freiburg et al, (1998)

  • Jon S. Lawry, ‘Dr Lemuel Gulliver and ‘the thing that was not’, JEGP, 67 (1968)

  • Robert M. Philmus, ‘Swift, Gulliver and ‘the thing that was not’, ELH, 38 (1971)

  • Frederik Smith, ed., The Genres of "Gulliver's Travels" (Newark: Univ. of Delaware Press, 1990).

  • Catherine Skeen, ‘Projecting Fictions: Gulliver's Travels, Jack Connor, and John Buncle’, Modern Philology 100, no. 3 (2003), 330-59




  • Frank Boyle, Swift as Nemesis: Modernity and Its Satirist (Stanford, 2000).

  • Robert C. Elliott, ‘Swift’s Tale of a Tub: An Essay in Problems of Structure’, PMLA 66 (1951), 441-455. See also his book The Power of Satire: Magic, Ritual, Art (Princeton, 1960).

  • Phillip Harth, Swift and Anglican Rationalism: The Religious Background of "A Tale of a Tub" (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1961).

  • Frances Deutsch Louis, Swift's Anatomy of Satire: A Study of Swift's Epistemological Imagination in "A Tale of A Tub" (Totowa, N.J.: Barnes and Noble, 1981).

  • Richard Nash, 'Entrapment and Ironic Modes in A Tale of a Tub', Eighteenth-Century Studies, 24 (1991), 415-31.

  • Ronald Paulson, Theme and Structure in Swift's "Tale of a Tub" (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1960).

  • Ricardo Quintana, ‘Two Paragraphs in Tale of a Tub, Section IX’, Modern Philology 73 (1975), 15-32

  • Frederik N. Smith, Language and Reality in Swift's "A Tale of a Tub" (Columbus, 1979).

  • Mariam K. Starkman, Swift's Satire on Learning in "A Tale of a Tub" (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press; rpt. New York: Octagon Books, 1968).

  • Mariam K. Starkman, Swift's Satire on Learning in "A Tale of a Tub" (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press; rpt. New York: Octagon Books, 1968)








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