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Title:Colonial shorthand: Swift, the ascendancy, and internal Colonialism
Author(s):Canning, Rick G.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Dussinger, John A.
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, English
Abstract:This study challenges the contemporary critical picture of Swift as anti- colonialist. Combining historical research with discursive and rhetorical analyses of heretofore neglected primary sources, I focus on the colonial assumptions underlying Swift's tracts, sermons, and correspondence. Though Swift often opposed English policy in Ireland, his membership in Ireland's governing class (the Anglo-Irish Protestant Ascendancy), and more specifically his devotion to the Church of Ireland, implicate him directly in England's domination of Irish life. Drawing on post-colonial theory, I argue that colonialism's effects on Swift are seen most clearly in the language he shared with other members of the Ascendancy, a shorthand that allowed him to equate Ascendancy interests with Irish interests, all the while ignoring the Catholic majority.
Chapter One begins with Swift's critics, who have often been so eager to rescue him from an apparently complacent Augustanism that they have neglected his place in Irish colonialism. In the light of the work of recent post colonial theorists, from Fanon and Memmi to Said, Bhabha, and Spivak, Swift's implication in colonial power is much deeper than his self-portraits often suggest. Chapter Two investigates some of the colonial implications of Swift's lifelong commitment to the Church of Ireland. Like A Modest Proposal, his sermons employ "savage indignation" to denounce Ireland's "enemies" and also to defend key aspects of its colonial status quo, in particular the Church itself. Chapters Three and Four examine the unspoken dependence of Swift's letters on the colonial hierarchies and standards of value that allowed the Ascendancy to confirm its sense of self-importance. On the one hand, Swift and his contemporaries could discuss "Irish" affairs without mentioning the Catholic Irish majority, while on the other hand, they could use Ireland's supposed inferiority and backwardness to justify its exclusive hold on power. My final Chapter treats The Drapier's Letters as the clearest instance of colonialism's impact on Swift's rhetoric. By denouncing Jacobitism, for example, the Drapier takes an implicitly anti-Catholic stand, thus affirming the Ascendancy's partnership with England in the subjection of Ireland to British interests.
Issue Date:1994
Rights Information:Copyright 1994 Canning, Rick G.
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9512315
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9512315

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