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Against the experts: Swift and political satire

Bullard, P. (2019) Against the experts: Swift and political satire. In: Bullard, P. (ed.) Oxford Handbook of Eighteenth-Century Satire. Oxford University Press, Oxford. ISBN 9780198727835

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This chapter looks at Jonathan Swift’s political satire, focusing on a crucial, seldom-discussed and newly-relevant theme: his deep hostility towards experts. It argues that Swift and his allies understood expertise in terms of a broader anti-technical idea of statesmanship, one that also advocated ‘common sense’ as a positive model for political deliberation, and ‘wit’ as a model for discourse. Satire was a common medium for articulating this programme, often in terms that were themselves doubled and ironized. Swift and many of his associates deplored secrecy and innuendo in political life and, at the same time, appropriated them as modes for oppositional satire. They painted modern instrumental thinking and modern technocratic politics as dull and clumsy, while adopting the discourses of those experts parodically as ‘mock-arts’. It was the interrelations between this group of satirical themes and political topoi that gave them power and significance at the start of the eighteenth century. Keywords: expert; technique; craft; statecraft; dexterity; experience; Walpole; Craftsman; Gulliver’s Travels; politics; statesmanship; innuendo; corruption; Machiavellian.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > English Literature
ID Code:82591
Publisher:Oxford University Press


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