English 4608.03 (Winter 2013)

Swift and His Times

ROOM - LSC C214, TR: 14:35 - 15:55

David McNeil
Office: 3193 6135 University (McCain Building)
Office Hours: M 10:30 - 11:30; T 16:00 - 15:00

Phone: 494-3508 E-Mail: dmcneil@dal.ca

This class provides students with the opportunity to study the works of Jonathan Swift in detail. While a good deal of attention will be paid to his great satiric texts, the class will also examine Swift's lesser known prose and verse. We will consider the young man at Moor Park, the political activist during the reign of Queen Anne, and the mature figure as Dean of St. Patrick's. The class will also look at the some of the works that were produced by the Scriberians, the literary club that included such people as Alexander Pope and John Gay, and that of other Tory satirists such as Delariviere Manley. The ultimate objective of this class is to understand Swift's work, as well as that of some of his peers, within an historical and cultural context.


The Writings of Jonathan Swift. Norton Critical Edition.
Online Texts and the Eighteenth-Century Collections Online (ECCO) will also be used.

Method of Evaluation

Class Participation


Mid-Term (objective questions plus one essay) Feb. 14th


Presentation (can be based on Proposals); select by January 24th


Research Essay (due March 26th), 2000-words

evaluation includes Proposal, due March 7th


Final (same format as Mid-Term only longer)


Class participation will be based on attendance, verbal comments in class, and BLS “Discussion” postings.The Mid-Term will consist of a number of objective questions (e.g., identification, short answer) and one essay.Presentation topics are listed (in Italics) for each class.Students are required to select one by January 24th.Presentations should include aBLS component (e.g., questions, outline, bibliography, web-page), uploaded ideally two days before the scheduled date.Students are also required to submit a 2-page proposal (with working bibliography) for the “Research Essay” on March 6th.More than one proposal may be submitted, and students are encouraged to consult with the instructor.Proposals may be based on Presentation topics and vice versa..The final Research Essay is due March 26th (one grade level penalty for each day overdue).

Blackboard Learning System

This class makes use of BLS to facilitate the use of digital resources (e.g., "Discussion" board," "Announcements", and "Collaborate"). Research Essays will have to be submitted to SafeAssign. Subject to the approval of class members, all classes will be recorded with Camtasia and made available in various formats (Flash, iPad, iPod/iPhone) via Blackboard.

Important - Read This - If You Miss a Class

If you miss a class, please DO NOT send me an e-mail. I will assume that you have a good reason. I will also assume that you will access the class material via a Camtasia recording, and that you will post any questions or comments on Blackboard "Discussions." If you post a sustantial comment (i.e., a few paragraphs) within 24 hours of the class, you will be recorded as having "attended" the class.

Tentative Schedule (check BLS “Calendar” for updates):

Jan. 8 - Class 1
- Introduction

Jan 10 - Class 2
Swift, “A Description of the Morning,” 518
Swift, “A Description of a City Shower,” 518-20
- the mock georgic
Swift, Battle of the Books, 372-96
- the mock heroic

Jan. 15 - Class 3
Swift, A Tale of A Tub, 263-371
- tradition of learned wit or menippean satire
- mimicry and satire

Ja. 17 - Class 4
Swift, A Tale of A Tub, 263-371
- the wars of religion (15th & 16th centuries)
- mental illness and its treatment

Jan. 18 Last day to add Winter Term classes

Jan. 22 - Class 5
Manley, Secret Memoirs, selection ECCO
- Manley’s life
- political scandal
- amatory fiction (Ros Ballister)

Jan. 24 - Class 6
Arbuthnot, The History of John Bull ECCO
- satire and travesty
- the War of the Spanish Succession
- the scriblerians
Swift, selection The Journal to Stella,441-47
- the journal as literature
Swift, selection of“Birthday” poems for Stella, 525, 527, and 531.
- Swift and Stella
Swift, “Isaac Bickerstaff,” 426-41
- astrology and almanacs

Jan 29 - Class 7
Pope, The Rape of the Lock Blackboard link
- Pope’s life and the background to the poem

Jan 31 - Class 8
Pope, The Rape of the Lock Blackboard link
- the mock epic
- the heroic couplet

Feb. 4 Last day to drop Winter class without a W.

Feb 5 - Class 9
Haywood, Memoirs of a Certain Island, selection ECCO
- the financial revolution and crisis of 1720

Feb 7 - Class 10
Swift, “The Bubble” See, “Bubble Project”
- songs by Finch, D’Urfey, etc.
- popular responses to the Bubble(e.g., collage-like “medley” prints)

Feb. 12 - Class 11
Hogarth’s Graphic Satire, Blackboard link
- the “progress” genre
- satire and visual detail

Feb. 14 Mid-Term Test

Feb. 19 - Class 12
Gay, The Beggar’s OperaBlackboard link
- Italian opera in London
- crime in London
- satire and contrapunctum

Feb. 21 - Class 13
Gay, The Beggar’s Opera Blackboard link
- Newgate prison
- Jonathan Miller’s production (esp. the ending)

Feb. 25 - Mar. 1 STUDY BREAK

Mar. 5 - Class 14
Swift, select correspondence, 583-605
- the letter as literature
- Swift, “On Poetry” 567-78
Rochester, “A Satyr on Reason and Mankind” Blackboard link

Mar. 7 - Class 15
Swift, “The Lady’s Dressing Room,” 535-38
“A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed,” 538-40
- scatology and boudoir poetry
Montagu, “The Reasons that Inducted Dr. Swift ...” response to Swift’s “A Lady’s Dressing-room”), ECCO
-the gender wars

Mar. 8 Last day to drop Winter class with a W

Mar. 12 - Class 16
Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, Books I & II, 1-124
- "parody" and travel literature
- political satire

Mar. 14 - Class 17
Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, Books III & IV, 125-260
- satire and science
- the Yahoos and racialism
- the Houyhnhnms as ideal?

Mar. 19 - Class 18
Pope, Martinus Scriblerus: Peri Bathos, Or the Art of Sinking in Poetry ECCO
- the scriblerians

Mar. 21 - Class 19
Pope, Dunciad IV, Blackboard Link
- the heroic couplet
- satire and popular culture

Mar. 26 - Class 20
Swift, “A Modest Proposal” 502-509
- Ireland and mercantilism - Research Essay Proposal Due

Mar. 28 - Class 21
- Hogarth’s Graphic Satire II, Blackboard link
- the visual emblem

Apr. 2 - Class 22
Swift, “Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift, D.S.D.P.” 550-62

Apr. 4 - Class 23
- Review and Conclusions

Apr. 11-26 - Examination Period - You must be present to write the Final Exam.

Students with disabilities who require academic accommodations are encouraged to register as quickly as possible at Student Accessibility Services. To do so you can phone 902.494.2836, e-mail access@dal.ca , or drop in to our office in the Mark Hill Centre. Please check out our information on our website.


To study the life and work of Jonathan Swift in some detail; to become more knowledgeable about European history and culture (1660-1745); to improve skill sets in literary research and communication (written and oral); and to have a BLAST appreciating the finest satirist in English Literature (perhaps Western culture)!

Last updated, December 29, 2012