• James A. W. Rembert


Swift’s satiric and ironic essays, chapters and passages, and his straightforward essays, are more dialectical in style than Swift studies heretofore have shown, dialectical analyses of literature not only having fallen behind rhetorical analyses but indeed being virtually nonexistent. Swift’s style is due a dialectical analysis, and the importance of the dialectical tradition in literature calls for exposition. What here is provided for Swift can be done for any of a number of authors from the period when dialectic was the foundation of university studies and of philosophy and theology, from before the time of Chaucer to the time of Blake. An exploratory exposition would naturally settle on a competitive age of pamphlet warfare, a time when writers were conscious of what they considered the perfection of prose and verse styles in the land, and an age of satire. Dryden, Locke, Steele and others of their period could supply the examples, but Swift best shows the persistent use of dialectic and, as the best satirist, he shows one of the main contentions of this inquiry: that satire, rather than using logic or dialectic, is in fact an adjunct of dialectic, is the child of disputation.


Seventeenth Century Twelfth Century Main Contention Rhetorical Analysis Hegelian Dialectic 
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  1. 2.
    C. B. Schmitt, ‘Towards a Reassessment of Renaissance Aristotelianism’, History of Science, 11 (1973) 176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 3.
    E. J. Ashworth, Language and Logic in the Post-Medieval Period (Boston: D. Reidel, 1974) p. ix.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  5. 4.
    These include N. W. Gilbert, ‘The Early Italian Humanists and Disputation’, Renaissance Studies in Honor of Hans Baron, ed. A. Molho and J. A. Tedeschi, Biblioteca Storica Sansoni, Nuova Serie XLIX (Florence, 1971) pp. 203–26Google Scholar
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  14. ch. 3 of J. M. Bullitt, Jonathan Swift and the Anatomy of Satire (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1953), contains useful insights into Swift’s use of logic to gain powerful satiric effect, but the chapter, as its title suggests, has a rhetorical rather than a dialectical emphasis.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    W. B. Carnochan, ‘Swift’s Tale: On Satire, Negation, and the Uses of Irony’, Eighteenth-Century Studies, 5 (1971) 122–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Cf. related problems: ‘Deserts of circularity’ in Swift’s satires, noted by R. C. Elliott in ‘Swift’s Satire: Rules of the Game’, ELH, 41 (1974) 413, citing C. Rawson, and Rawson’s later observation, ‘The ironic subversions of the Tale are so universal that they become self-subversions; and the applied appeal to a simplifying authority is itself subverted by that fact’: ‘The Character of Swift’s Satire: Reflections on Swift, Johnson, and Human Restlessness’, in The Character of Swift’s Satire: A Revised Focus, ed. C. Rawson (Newark, N.J.: University of Delaware Press, 1983) p. 65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 8.
    P. H. Wells, ‘The Poetry of Swift: Dialectical Rhetoric and the Humanist Tradition’, unpublished PhD thesis, New York University, 1971Google Scholar
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  19. J. Kellerman, ‘Comedy, Satire, Dialectics’, unpublished PhD thesis, State University of New York at Buffalo, 1977 — a focus on Molière’s Misanthrope in terms of comedy, satire and Hegelian dialectics; J. E. Gill, ‘Man and Yahoo’, in Dress of Words, cited above (note 5).Google Scholar

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© James A. W. Rembert 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • James A. W. Rembert
    • 1
  1. 1.The CitadelCharlestonUSA

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