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Speaking of words ... - The Annals of Young Geoffrey: Hope brings a turtle [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Young Geoffrey

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Speaking of words ... [Dec. 5th, 2004|12:25 am]
Young Geoffrey
... have you, Gentle Readers (and especially Laura!) - read Jonathon Swift's A Modest Proposal? I've been alluding to the damned thing for years. The other day ... er, <a href="http://www.livejournal.com/users/ed_rex/friends> one of you</a> ... suggested I actually read it. I did. It's much shorter than I'd imagined. Terse (in a legalesee kind of way). Dry and subtle - his academic-style descriptions of a suckling one-year old child, properly prepared his hilarious. Brilliant satire. I'm glad I've been paraphrasing its thesis for years.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: fadefromnothing
2004-12-05 06:21 am (UTC)
I read that when I was far younger, and simply adored it. Jonathan Swift wove quite a few of my childhood dreams due to his other books, and A Modest Proposal simply strenghtened that in my morbid nature, hah.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-12-05 04:56 pm (UTC)
I'm almost ashamed to admit that, the above-noted essay aside, I've never read anything else by Swift. I received a copy of Gulliver's Travels as a Christmas present when I was 10 or so, but it was an abridged version and I was too snobby to read it.
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[User Picture]From: easyalchemy
2004-12-05 07:23 am (UTC)
Yup - read it in highschool. I often refer to it in conversation, especialy if I'm mocking someone's ideas, but not that many people have the slightest clue what I'm talking about, so they don't laugh. Nor do they get offended, so it's probably for the best; I'd get my ass kicked a lot more often if more poeple had read/remembered A Modest Proposal.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-12-05 04:57 pm (UTC)
I usually refer to it when I need to define satire, as opposed to parody - a subtlety sadly lost on much of this television-drenched world.
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[User Picture]From: sooguy
2004-12-05 02:14 pm (UTC)
It's funny that you should mention it. We were just talking about this the other day at my book club. It's been so long since any of us had actually read the damn thing.

Thanks for the link.
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[User Picture]From: sabotabby
2004-12-05 07:25 pm (UTC)
We read it in English class in high school, when studying satire. Some people were horrified; I was all "hehe, eating babies."
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[User Picture]From: sabotabby
2004-12-05 07:25 pm (UTC)
Oh, and I do whip it out to discuss the present political situation.
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[User Picture]From: pbprincess
2004-12-06 08:09 pm (UTC)
I make some of my more advanced students read it without preamble, and then ask them what they think.

Hours and hours of fun!
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-12-07 10:40 pm (UTC)
I bet. I'm guessing a lot of them are pretty damned offended and upset.
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[User Picture]From: pbprincess
2004-12-07 10:53 pm (UTC)
Muahahaha. yes.
or they suspect something is up.

Afterwards, we can have an effective discussion on the role of satire, but usually they don't get juvenalian satire unless they're hit over the head with it.

Sometimes though, it's mostly for my own amusement.
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[User Picture]From: carnivalnights
2004-12-08 12:06 am (UTC)
I had to read it for one of my first year classes at uni. I thought it was brilliant. It reminded me of Valorie Solanas' The SCUM Manifesto. I enjoy satire more than most genres.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-12-08 12:21 am (UTC)
It reminded me of Valorie Solanas' The SCUM Manifesto.

Oh shit. That was satire? I always read it as the straight-up ravings of a mad-woman (in both senses of the term).

Oh my. I must re-read that.
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[User Picture]From: carnivalnights
2004-12-08 12:30 am (UTC)
Well, she was mad. I heard she was in many asylums. And of course, shooting Andy probably just verified her madness. (She did have her reasons though-- not that they were valid.) I think you have to take something so outrageous as satire. It's just as outrageous as suggesting human beings eat babies, no? There has been controversy surrounding it but I didn't find myself thinking of it as anything but a parody.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-12-08 12:34 am (UTC)
Asylums, eh? Maybe I wasn't so wrong after all (especially since I momentarily forgot the assassination attempt).

I think you have to take something so outrageous as satire. It's just as outrageous as suggesting human beings eat babies, no?

Do you? I hate to risk invoking Hitler during an internet discussion, but his plans for the Final Solution were about as far as you can get from a joke. There are some very sick bastards in this world, and sometimes, they aren't kidding at all.

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[User Picture]From: carnivalnights
2004-12-08 12:44 am (UTC)
I read she was in two or three of them. And yes, can't forget the lovely assassination attempt.

You have a point and I agree. I suppose it depends on how far you take it. Solanas didn't actually attempt to eliminate the male species. I'm not saying that automatically means she wasn't too serious about her suggestions, but it's probably more likely. I just felt a sense of parody while I was reading it. A mocking tone.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-12-08 01:03 am (UTC)
I just felt a sense of parody while I was reading it. A mocking tone.

I wonder if you read it the same way I did, some years ago, a very earnest newsgroup for Greek Orthodox people. The discussions were almost entirely about what were - to me - incredibly arcane disagreements based on two fundamental beliefs - (1) that there is a God; and (2) that the Orthodox are closer to him than anyone else - that to me were non-sensical.

To make a long story short, I wonder if you were reading-in parody where it wasn't intended.
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[User Picture]From: carnivalnights
2004-12-08 01:49 am (UTC)
Well, religion never enters into anything I do, say or read. So yes, non-sensical indeed.

There is no way to ever know what an author's intentions were unless you ask them directly. And really, it doesn't matter. I am quite sure authors would be rolling in their graves if they saw the way their works were being taught in high school, college or university.

People read things and have different interpretations of the same piece. I found more people in my class read it as a parody than as a real opinion though, including my professor and TA.
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