Although Gulliver’s stay in Glubbdubdrib ostensibly grants access to the truth, truth remains one of the episode’s most vexing issues. Not only is the Voyage to Glubbdubdrib a parti-pris piece in Swift’s politico-literary arsenal against Whiggery; it also abides by the jocular conventions of the Dialogues of the Dead, a fact which undercuts the purported veracity of what Gulliver is imparted: learning from the dead may simply result in more illusions. Indeed, what Gulliver discovers is a variety of political histories which finally boil down to a reductio ad fornicationem, even ad prostitutionem, and which do not rise above those very ‘anecdotes’ that are the ‘hallmark’ of faulty history. Thus, Gulliver’s ‘restoration’ of historical truth suggests that history rests on thin air and that, especially when it serves the practical purposes of politics, it is no better than “obscene necromancy.”
This new volume of Reading Swift assembles 26 lectures delivered at the Seventh Münster Symposium on Jonathan Swift in June 2017, testifying to an extraordinary spectrum of research interests in the Dean of St Patrick’s, Dublin, and his works. Reading Swift follows the tried and tested format of its predecessors, grouping the essays in eight sections: biographical problems; bibliographical and canonical studies; political and religious as well as philosophical, economic, and social issues; poetry; Gulliver’s Travels; and reception studies. The élan vital, which has been such a distinctive feature of Swift scholar-ship in the past thirty-five years, is continuing unabated.