The Political Animal: Swift, the Beast Fable, and Satirical Personhood
Heather Keenleyside, University of Chicago
At the end of the eighteenth century, William Godwin lamented that readers of Gulliver’s Travels missed the work’s political significance because they were distracted by “the mere playfulness of its form.” Professor Keenleyside argues, by contrast, that the form of Swift’s work itself carries complex political meaning. More specifically, she suggests that Swift develops his curiously hybrid literary form—an extended beast fable narrated in the first person, and in the mode of satire—in order to reflect on two conceptions of the subject of politics: the classical idea of the human being as a political animal, and the Hobbesian rejection of this idea in favor of a new, modern notion of political personhood.
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