Much has been written on Swift and his principal satires. But surprisingly little attention has been paid to the imagination of the great Augustan satirist. His satirical deployment of fictions has never been systematically examined. Yet it is this aspect of his work which has done more than anything else to endear him to readers.
The critical implications of this fact are the subject of
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 the parodic devices and other fictional patterns by means of which the satirist produces his biting vision of man as a social and political animal. He argues that it is these fictional devices that enable Swift to construct his uncanny satirical reference to reality and to produce satirical effects that irony and rhetoric could never achieve by themselves. The book highlights the inventiveness of the satirist and his skill at manipulating the reader's expectations. It presents Swift as a man of the Age of Reason ever ready to call the imagination to the rescue of common sense.
The present revised edition has been for its author an opportunity to review the situation in Swift studies after half a decade. The book makes use of, or draws attention to, recent work on the subject of the satirist's fictions and proposes further reflections on the character of the satirist's imagination. Above all, it has benefited from the recent development of interdisciplinary research on the eighteenth century, its medicine and visual arts.