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Swift's use of the literature of travel in the composition of "Gulliver's travels"

By David Francis Jones


The primary aim of this thesis is to identify and assess\ud the correspondences which occur between Gulliver's Travels\ud and non fiction travel writing to which Swift is known to\ud have had access before and during the period of composition.\ud Books of travels listed by Harold Williams in Dean Swift's\ud Library (Cambridge, 1932) have been consulted. In particular,\ud the thesis examines the possible contribution of travel documents\ud published by Hakluyt and Purchas. The method of research\ud employed has been to concentrate upon themes such as\ud the veracity of travel writers, stylistic features, primitive\ud savages, strange islands, magic,attitudes to voyaging, bows\ud and arrows, pygmies and giants, motives for travel, law and\ud customs. The first chapter summarizes known and possible influences,\ud considering the broad combination of fabulous and\ud imaginary prose travel with Swift's mock realism. The second\ud chapter develops the analysis of literary parody and considers\ud the uneasy satirical relationship between travel lies and\ud Gulliver's ironic veracity, with particular reference to magic\ud and astrology. Chapters 3-7 comprise five regional studies\ud of several themes which have been considered of special relevance\ud to Gulliver's Travels, following this survey of travel\ud writing.\ud The conclusions reached in the course of the thesis relate\ud to the allusive power and ironic depth of Gulliver's Travels.\ud Whereas R.W. Frantz, W.A. Eddy, Arthur Sherbo and others have\ud noticed incidental parallels in real travel literature, no\ud comprehensive study exists of the subject as a whole. The\ud thesis treats Hakluyt and Purchas in detail in working towards\ud establishing the conventions of travel writing which are partly\ud imitated and partly mocked by Swift. The extent to which\ud it is intended that the reader should be conscious of the real\ud travel background is also explored. Although source hunting\ud can be an unprofitable activity, the large number of correspondences\ud between Gulliver's Travels and the literature of\ud real travel upon which the work is partly based suggest Swift\ud was more conversant with voyages and travels than may have\ud been presumed. These travel features appear to have been carefully\ud intermingled with recognizable Homeric, Rabelaisian and\ud Lucianic elements

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