E211 JONATHAN SWIFT QUESTIONS

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From "A Tale of a Tub" (2315-23 Norton Vol. C)

1. From 2315-17, Swift's narrator addresses the nature and actions of certain European monarchs, the doers of "the greatest actions that have been performed in the world." How does he assess their actions and trace the cause of them? What seems to be the point of analyzing them the way he does?

2. From 2317-19, the narrator explains his theory about why philosophers and religionists do the things they do. Firstly, what exactly are they doing, according to him? And why do they do it: what delusion leads them on, and with what result?

3. From 2319-21, how does the narrator articulate his definition of "happiness"? What is happiness, and how does the narrator defend his definition -- namely, why is it better, according to him, to regard only the surfaces of things and to "patch up the flaws and imperfections of nature" rather than trying to improve upon it?

4. From 2321-23, what supposed advice does Swift offer to the British Parliament: what public benefits might come from a close examination of "Bedlam" (Bethlem Royal Hospital in London)? In the course of offering this advice, how does Swift pin down the particular failings of the "sane" professions he has referenced?

5. General question: what relationship has Swift asserted between sanity and madness? That is, how does his analysis of the latter disturb our understanding of the former? What seems to be the point in making this kind of analysis at all -- what serious point does such a satirical piece make?

Edition. Greenblatt, Stephen et al., eds. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 8th ed. New York: Norton, 2006. Package 1 (Vols. ABC) ISBN 0-393-92833-0.