God, Gulliver, and Genocide: Barbarism and the European Imagination, 1492-1945

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Overview

"When we say certain people 'ought to be shot', or exterminated from 'the face of the earth', we usually do so in the knowledge that we will not be thought to mean it literally. It is a figure of speech, partially sanitized by the conventions of social usage. We also create myths, stories, histories of which the same might be said. The victims in these stories may be whole peoples or groups of people, or even the whole of humanity, as when God said He would 'destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth'. The phrasing reverberates throughout scripture and human history. It has been applied to the people to Israel and to their enemies, to conquered savages, the Irish, the poor, and the Jews of Nazi-occupied Europe. Its usage has ranged from the deadliest genocidal intentions, to satirical threats, fictional fantasies and colloquial expressions of undeadly irritation. We 'mean' it, don't mean it, and don't not mean it, and the demarcations are often unclear." "God, Gulliver, and Genocide explores the range of aggressions which inhabit the space between such figures of speech and their implementation, from the book of Genesis to the present day, but more especially in the period between the conquest to the Americas and the end of World War II. It examines a wide variety of authors and voices, chiefly Montaigne and Swift, but also Bartolome de las Casas and Jean de Lery, Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw, and travel-writers and ethnographers from Columbus and Vespucci to Bougainville and Cook. Behind all these stand those mass-catastrophes in Genesis, the Deluge and the destruction of the Cities of the Plain, with their grim and quizzical relation to the mass-slaughters of human history, culminating in the Second World War."--BOOK JACKET.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Never a scholar to be bound by conventions of periodization...Rawson has written a book of major importance for genres ranging from Renaissance encounter literature to modern Holocaust fiction. But his greatest gift has always been for torpedoing the prevailing assumptions of eighteenth-century studies, and in this bold new account of Swift, and the implications arising for other writers, he has done it, explosively, again."--The Times Literary Supplement

"[An] erudite, passionate book...learned, wide-ranging and acute.... [Rawson is] one of the finest 18th-century specialists, who...is also a critic of striking flair and delicacy."--Terry Eagleton, London Review of Books

"[Rawson's] important new book...might at first blush seem to have certain similarity to...fashionable criticisms of Western values and actions, but it could not be more different from them in its freedom from ideological agendas, its refusal to cook the evidence, its ability to see moral nuance, and its steady sense of the complexity of historical causation. Rawson has long been one of our most illuminating authorities on eighteenth-century English satire and on Swift in particular; but in his new book he casts a much wider net, exhibiting the same meticulous erudition in his treatment of Montaigne and Wilde and Shaw as he does in his discussion of the English Augustan writers."--The New Republic

"Rawson's excellent book analyses 'the spectrum of aggressions' that exists between such figurative use of the language of extermination and its actual fulfillment in historical genocides over the last six centuries."--The Guardian

"Reaffirm[s] Rawson's unassailable pre-eminence as Swift's most challenging, exciting, and erudite modern critic.... [God, Gulliver, and Genocide] is a dazzling and disturbing account of the European imagination as it engages with alien tribes and races--Jews, American Indians, the Irish, Hottentots, South Sea Islanders.... Rawson's apparently effortless mastery of the rich tapestry of modern and classical literature and history supplies a triumphantly affirmative tribute to the power of civilization."--Christine Gerrard, Review of English Studies

"In this book an eminent critic of the literary and cultural history of the 'long eighteenth century' extends his inquiries to ask searching questions of the 'moral history of Europe'.... God, Gulliver, and Genocide is a book rich in subtle nuanced readings of a wide range of texts and authors, of the 'texture of thought.' It is a major contribution to the literature with sees '1492' as a key event in world history.... A very fine work of literary and cultural history."--Journal of Genocide Research

"One of the most remarkable books I have read in some time.... This is an important book to be debated for some time to come."--Allen Reddick, Studies in English Literature 1500-1900

"A remarkably subtle and generously contextualized study of barbarism and Swift's imagination. It is also, I believe, a powerful response to politically correct readings of Swift.... A particularly challenging and valuable book."--Jonathan Beecher, Utopian Studies

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780198184256
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 8/28/2001
  • Pages: 440
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Claude Rawson is Maynard Mack Professor of English, Yale University. His works include Henry Fielding and the Augustan Ideal Under Stress; Gulliver and the Gentle Reader: Studies in Swift and Our Time; Order from Confusion Sprung: Studies in Eighteenth-Century Literature from Swift to Cowper; The Collected Poems of Thomas Parnell, with F. P. Lock; Satire and Sentiment 1660-1830; and Cambridge History of Literary Criticism: Volume 4: The Eighteenth Century, with H. B. Nisbet.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Note on Texts and Editions Used
Introduction 1
1 Indians and Irish from Montaigne to Swift 17
Catalogues of Conquest 17
Unspeaking the Unspeakable 24
'Ils se sont entremangez' 33
Good and Bad Indians 42
Utopians, Tupinamba, Houyhnhnms, Yahoos 55
Gunpowder Magic 62
Fynes Moryson and the Intelligencer 69
Indians, Irish, and the Scythian Myth 79
2 The Savage with Hanging Breasts: Gulliver, Female Yahoos, and 'Racism' 92
'A young Female Yahoo ... inflamed by Desire' 92
The Savage with Hanging Breasts 98
Hottentots and Irish 108
The Hottentot Venus 113
The Bum Shop 130
Matings with Strangers 138
Going Native 151
Apes and Angels 162
Post-colonial Couplings 175
3 Killing the Poor: An Anglo-Irish Theme? 183
'I look forward eagerly to their extermination' 183
'The worst of our crimes is poverty' 191
Dreams of the Beggar as Nobleman 203
Beggars and Hottentots, or Exterminate all the Brutes 209
Badging, Branding, and Castration 224
'The old sow that eats her farrow': The Beggarly Kingdom from Spenser to Joyce 232
The 'Whole' People 237
A Flayed Woman, and Brother Footman going to be Hanged 245
The Ought to be Shot: The 'desperate Experiment' of Figures of Speech 249
4 God, Gulliver, and Genocide 256
Yahoos, Helots, and Extermination 256
Gulliver and Biblical Survivors 266
'With the Skins of Yahoos, well stitched together' 275
The Reprieve of Castration and other Leniencies 287
Ten Righteous Men: Abraham Haggles with God 298
Notes 311
Index 381
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