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Swift and Mimetic Sickness

From: The Eighteenth Century
Volume 54, Number 3, Fall 2013
pp. 359-373 | 10.1353/ecy.2013.0030



In his satire, Jonathan Swift identifies and redresses what twentieth-century critical theorists name the “repression of mimesis” attendant on the advent of modernity. Focusing on A Tale of a Tub, “A Modest Proposal,” and Gulliver’s Travels, this essay shows how Swift exploits the powers of mimesis in order to effect an antidote to the repression of mimesis those satires expose. Invoking Michael Taussig’s analysis of mimesis and alterity, this essay explores how Swift’s disenchantment of modernity’s fiction of its own a-fictionality affirms the power of representation over human bodies, lives, and histories.

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