Penn State

Clement C. Hawes - Hermann J. Real, Penn State University Park

Book Title: The Reception of Jonathan Swift in Europe

Author: Hermann J. Real

Book Description:

I have two reasons for choosing this book. One is my admiration and affection for Hermann J. Real, director of the Ehrenpreis Center for Swift Studies in Muenster, Germany. My own affiliation with Hermann and Muenster has been a great widener of my intellectual horizons. As an eighteenth-century scholar, I am glad to associate my public memory with him and a tiny sample of his work on Swift.

This book -- not owned by the library -- features an international approach to the writings of Jonathan Swift. The greatest satirist writing in English, Swift has been universally popular. Gulliver's Travels (1726), in particular, has been translated all over the globe,leaving a great deal of work still to be done on comparative approaches to its reception. Mohandas K. Gandhi, to take only a single example, can be found in his early correspondence recommending Gulliver's Travels to all of his friends. The anti-colonial resonance of Swift's life and writings could hardly find a more suggestive corroboration.

Swift mocks the modern operation of power relations so brilliantly -- and with such a fearless mixture of rage and black humor -- that one often feels suspended between laughter and tears. Whether in Hungary or the more familiar context of France, readers have recognized something of their own experience in this absurdist humor, which famously includes a mock-proposal to address Ireland's economic problems by selling infants as food for the rich. The "cosmopolitan" nature of man-made horror is proven by the reception of Swift. The confrontational opposition to the normalization of such horror through the edgy and strategic intervention in public culture never found a funnier nor more brilliant exemplar than the Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin.


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