Defoe e Swift

Daniel Defoe
Life and works
Daniel Defoe was born in 1660 into a family of Dissenters and he received a modern education: he studied modern languages, economics and geography.
He begun working as an apprentice, and then oh his own. He suffered two bankruptcies which he faces both with legal and illicit means.
He started to write in Whig papers. As a journalist, his greatest achievement was The Review, a periodical which he published two or three times a week. He became a famous and well-paid intellectual by writing political essays and pamphlets.
But Queen Anne didn’t like his critical attitude and had him arrested, tried and imprisoned. He made three appearances in the pillory, too.
Then he denied his Whig ideas in order to be freed and became a secret agent for the new government.

1719  Robinson Crusoe
1720  Captain Singleton

1722  Moll Flanders and Colonel Jack
1724  The Fortunate Mistress (Roxana)

Thanks to the money earned with these works, he could afford a comfortable standard of life. He died in 1731.

The novels
Defoe’s narratives are fictional autobiographies pretending to be true stories through the biographical details and memories provided by the protagonist.
They are also preceded by a preface which stresses their authenticity.

Series of episodes and adventures held together by the unifying presence of a single hero.
Defoe neither planned his works nor revised them  no coherent plot
• retrospective first-person narration
• the author’s point of view mainly coincides with the main character’s
The characters are presented from the inside, through their actions. They usually appear isolated, either physically or socially, in their struggle for survival.

Defoe is regarded as the father of the English novel, the representative of a new social class that wanted to see its life and ideals portrayed in literature. His narrative technique became the basis for the development of the realistic novel.

Jonathan Swift
Life and works

Jonathan Swift was born in Dublin in 1667 of English parents.
He left Ireland for England at the time of Revolution in 1688. He started to work for Sir William Temple, a Whig statesman who encouraged him to write his first satirical works.
Swift’s best satires:
- The battle of the Books (1697)
merits of ancient and modern literature, defense of the classics
- A Tale of a Tub (1704)
contending religious groups (Catholics-Dissenters)

In 1964 Swift returned to Ireland and became an Anglican priest.

From 1708 to 1714 he was chiefly in London and he made friends with Alexander Pope and other important writers. He produced many writings for the Tory administration.
In 1713 he was made Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin.
He began to write pamphlets denouncing injustices that Ireland suffered:
-The Universal Use of Irish Manufacture
-The Drapier’s Letters  series of pamphlets written in an assumed character, M.B Drapier, against government’s proposal for a new coinage

Swift was considered a national hero

1726  Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World (Gulliver’s Travels)
1729  A Modest Proposal

Suggestion that the poverty of the Irish should be relieved by the sale of their children as food for the rich

He found in irony, parody and satire the means that suited his temperament.

Swift is one of the most controversial English writers.
He was concerned with politics and society and he was prevalently conservative. He didn’t share the optimism of his age.

According to Swift, reason ins an instrument that must be used properly and he insisted on the need to take a common-sense view of life.

Decay of mental faculties, labyrinthine vertigo, deafness  he died in 1745

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