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Jonathan Swift

The Fictions of the Satirist

Jean-Paul Forster

Much has been written of Swift and his principal satires. But one aspect of his art has received surprisingly little attention, namely his satirical deployment of fictions, which more than anything else endeared him to early readers. Jonathan Swift: The Fictions of the Satirist. Against the current tendency to stress the relationship between the work and the life of the man or his age, J.-P. Forster explores how the great Augustan satirist uses various simple fictional devices to produce effects which lend his satires a subtlety that irony and rhetoric could never achieve by themselves. He argues that it is these fictional devices that have allowed his satires to survive the test of time.
A close examination of the well-known and not so well-known satires demonstrates that Swift's constant concern with the relationship of text to reader played a crucial role in his choice and handling of fiction. It also suggests that his conception of imagination, more important to an understanding of his work than generally assumed, is as problematic as his conception of reason.
Contents: The Satirical Use of Framing Fictions - From Framing to Framed Fictions - The Metamorphoses of the Body - Fictional Patterns, Laughter, Meaning.