A Modern Proposal: Introduction Part I

I have decided to begin this analytical series with Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal. Now some are going to jump in and say, “But, *crazy lady from the internet I do not know*, that is an example of a rhetorical work, not a literary work.” To those people I say, “You’re right, bonus points.” In fact, A Modest Proposal is considered one of the best rhetorical compositions in history. That being said, you have to understand a number of literary devices to understand Swift’s ‘Proposal‘. Not only that, but to write such brilliantly crafted rhetorical piece Swift also had to be familiar with these literary devices. Since it is, in my opinion, the perfect blending of rhetoric and literature it is the best piece I could think of to start.

A few pieces of information to have before we read this piece. A Modest Proposal was written in 1729. Meaning it predates the American Revolution. Later, we will discuss why this piece of information is relevant. Swift, was a Methodist preacher born in Dublin to English parents. This one fact illuminates several details. Swift had ties to both English and Irish communities, though it should be noted he considered himself Irish. Also, he was protestant, wealthy, and educated.  It must also be known, Ireland was still a British colony during Swift’s lifetime. That meant that the English held dominion over the Irish. As a part of that there was a lot of animosity between the Protestants (seen as English or worse English loving betrayers) and the Catholics (seen as ignorant savages) in Ireland. By the way, I cannot be understating this inter-Ireland conflict enough. Finally, the very last thing you should know is that Swift published this little pamphlet anonymously.

Now, go read the essay which can be found, for free, at Project Gutenberg. As a side note, I will do my best to make sure that the majority of texts discussed here are available for free. While reading the essay keep in mind one question, why would Swift not publish this piece under his own name? Seriously, *tries to hide devilish smile* go read it. I’ll wait. *sits back in chair, chuckling maniacally.*

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