Harkins – Week 9

Illustrate Stanley Fish’s principles of satiric style as exemplified in Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.”

Fishy Babies

Taking Stanley Fish’s explanation on Satire (the bridge between the formal, how-to-write aspect and the relaxed, how-to-read-and-appreciate aspect, as addressed in his book, How to Write a Sentence) and combining it with Jonathan Swift’s satiric short story, A Modest Proposal, naturally produces the result of “fishy babies.”  Fish’s how-to-read-and-appreciate principle on satire hits the mark in describing (most of) the readers’ state when learning Swift’s proposal.  Fish further describes satire as “a content category–its content is cynicism, dyspepsia, disgust, anger–but there’s a lot of formal skill in writing satire (which requires knowing forms)” (90).  Cynicism is clearly apparent in the proposal in the idea that babies–real, soul-consisting, created human beings, are deemed as appropriate consumable meals!  Dyspepsia (the strange word) was both a side effect of reading for Miguel (who read Swift with me while frequently “indigesting” the text) and also “punny” (consisting of a pun, mixed with funny) in that many people would not follow through on the proposal because consuming babies = dyspepsia (defined as “deranged ingestion”).  An example of disgust toward Papists is evident when Swift addresses them as too numerous in Ireland’s population and therefore, consuming Papist babies would be a service to the kingdom (and not just for reasons dealing with over-population).

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