Swift's Classical Rhetoric

Swift's Classical Rhetoric

Swift's Classical Rhetoric

Swift's Classical Rhetoric

Excerpt

Great satire can hardly exist without the devices of rhetoric. Jonathan Swift relied almost exclusively upon classical rhetoric as a means of creating the ironies of his essays of total ironic inversion. The aim of the present study is to explore Swift's method in using the varied devices of classical rhetoric to create, sustain, and render plausible the ironic norms of these essays. Swift has used some of the devices without alteration from their ancient form; others he has refined into subtler functions. Through classical rhetoric, he has succeeded in casting over these essays an illusion of tight and irrefutable argument and an illusion that his author's point of view is somehow inevitably right. Indeed, some readers have been so impressed with Swift's elaborate and complex use of classical rhetoric they feel that the constant and sometimes electric play of this rhetoric is almost infinite. This present exploration will seek to render finite Swift's use of classical rhetoric and to examine in detail its functioning in the ironical essays.

For the ironical essays I have used the texts edited by Professor Herbert Davis (aided by Professor Louis A. Landa), without whose careful scholarship no such close textual study as the present one could be done in America. For Swift's letters, I have used Professor F. E. Ball's edition of the Correspondence. And for A Tale of a Tub, I have used the text prepared by A. C. Guthkelch and D. Nichol Smith.

Athens, Georgia C.A.B.

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