Sept 2020 Book Program
Time & Location
About The Event
WAT Classic Books Series
As the United States approaches a presidential election marked by extreme partisanship, we find ourselves in the midst of a pandemic, besieged by false information, and surrounded by civil unrest. Hence the selection of Gulliver's Travels, Jonathan Swift's satiric masterpiece, for this September Book Program. Scholars have long recognized that this book, wrapped in a travel tale, exposes the flaws of political institutions and social systems. Given human nature, systems ostensibly created to support common causes can degenerate into divisive behaviors. Gulliver's Travels gives us a fresh way to consider our current landscape, while its bizarre fantasy provides us with much needed humor and some psychological distance from a range of emotionally charged issues.
About the Professor
Dr. Peggy Thompson is the Ellen Douglass Leyburn Professor Emerita of English at Agnes Scott College, where she was an award-winning educator for 31 years. This South Dakota native holds five degrees in three different fields. Her scholarly expertise is in Restoration and eighteenth-century British literature, as well as feminist criticism, literature and philosophy. Professor Thompson is the author of Coyness and Crime in Restoration Comedy: Women's Desire, Deception, and Agency (2012) and the editor of Beyond Sense and Sensibility: Moral Formation and the Literary Imagination from Johnson to Wordsworth (2015). Her current projects include a book-length study of habit as a moral force in later eighteenth-century British writing. As an emerita, she also continues to serve her profession as a scholarly peer reviewer. Peggy has had many fascinating travels of her own, but this year she has mostly been home in Decatur.
About the Author and the Book
Gulliver's Travels is the master work of Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), the father of satirical English fiction. An Anglo-Irish essayist, poet, and political pamphleteer, Swift was an ordained clergyman who became Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin. His parody of the 'voyager tales' that were the pop fiction of his day was a controversial sensation from the start. Swift had his book published anonymously in 1726, not officially claiming his creation until 1735, when he asserted it was written "to vex the world rather than divert it." Gulliver's Travels, of course, continues to do both to this day.
Often known as a classic adventure fantasy beloved by children for centuries, Gulliver's Travels has remarkable depth for discerning adults. Swift used the structure of the autobiographical travel tale to pull off an elaborate hoax, a masterful literary game of parody that employed a range of satiric modes against a variety of targets. Recounting the misadventures of his travels to strange lands, Gulliver confidently tells of impossible facts in meticulous detail. Yet he remains oblivious to the true nature of relationships when he lands among Lilliputians, Brobdingnagians, Houyhnhnms and Yahoos. He vacillates between personal pride and self-disgust. Who is he and who does he become? Does he hold a mirror to ourselves? Travel with Professor Peggy Thompson on this literary discovery tour and see a classic character in a new light.
NOTE: Professor Thompson's discussion itinerary does not include Book III. Optional travel excursions to Laputa and its outer islands are on your own.
Read the Book Online -- Several Sources, Different Formats
Listen to a Free Audio Recording
https://librivox.org/gullivers-travels-by-jonathan-swift/ or with Android or iOS app from the AppStore.
Watch a Classic Cartoon
This 1939 cartoon loosely adapted from Gulliver's visit to Lilliput was the second animated feature film released in the U.S. It was Oscar nominated, played in theaters until the 1960s, and was issued on DVD. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6eyrmYRk1w
- RSVP to this event for FREE$0$00$0