restricted access God, Gulliver, and Genocide: Barbarism and the European Imagination, 1492–1945 by Claude Rawson (review)
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169 a Charles Churchill or James Macpherson. In its inability to distinguish between great and small matters and its obliviousness to such obvious questions as why Tristram Shandy is worth reading and teaching, the book replicates the scholastic myopia that Sterne satirizes so well. To assess the critical value of the primary material Mr. Keymer usefully notes, one must recognize that Sterne encourages us not only to ‘‘laugh at’’ Tristram, but also to ‘‘laugh with’’ him. To cite one among many examples, Tristram’s account of Yorick’s antipathy toward ‘‘gravity—not to gravity as such—for where gravity was wanted, he would be the most grave or serious of mortal men . . . but . . . to the affectation of it, . . . only as it appeared a cloak for ignorance, or for folly’’appeals to the reader’s ability to distinguish between warranted and unwarranted gravity, and to recognize affected gravity as a ‘‘cloak.’’ Tristram can only do this because he shares, if intermittently, like all of us, the ‘‘sense’’readers must employ simply to follow his sentence. To understand that Sterne encourages readers to negotiate when to laugh ‘‘at’’and when ‘‘with’’Tristram , in the manner of Renaissance satire, like Erasmus’s Praise of Folly, may help us see how Sterne engages the modern novel appreciatively. Mr. Keymer cites Michael Warner’s Licensing Entertainment (1998) on the novel of amorous intrigue’s evocation of open-ended seriality, but ignores Warner’s argument that Defoe, Richardson, and Fielding sought to create ‘‘antinovelistic’’discourses that would disruptthe‘‘absorptive reading’’ encouraged by amorous intrigue fiction. Tristram’s condemnation of ‘‘this self-same vile pruriency for fresh adventures’’may thereforebeseenbothasanoccasion to ‘‘laugh at’’ Tristram’s efforts to control the reader, as Mr. Keymer suggests, and as an occasion to ‘‘laugh with’’ Tristram in ways that affiliate his discourse with ‘‘antinovelistic ’’ currents in Richardson and Fielding. Indeed, only by getting beyond the either/or polarities of Mr. Keymer’s reading can his own startling evocation, twenty pages before the end of his study, of a Sterne whose ethical concerns about war and egotistic pleasurearepursuedwith‘‘wit,complexity,anddepth’’beunderstood.Ethicalpolitical ‘‘complexity and depth’’ cannot be simply added on to frivolity and mediamarketing . One might expect a book-length study to offer some account of their integration . Donald R. Wehrs Auburn University CLAUDE RAWSON. God, Gulliver, and Genocide: Barbarism and the European Imagination , 1492–1945. Oxford: Oxford, 2001. Pp. xvii ⫹ 401. $50; $20 (paper). As he set out to vex everyone, Swift enjoys nothing more than inculpating some eminent, encyclopedic critic renowned for negotiating the slippery slopes of his satire, particularly a retrospective one caught in the twentieth-century time warp of genocide and nuclear annihilation. Daringly, Swift lays down the gauntlet, if the intrepid critic attempts going higher. In response, Mr. Rawson readily admits ‘‘who knows what Swift meant literally, ever.’’Yet nothing daunted, he parses words that ‘‘express with unusual explicitness the mixture of meaning it, not meaning it, and not not meaning it.’’ Mr. Rawson has set out to identify who qualifies for Yahoo and once identified whether they qualify in fact or fiction for mass extermination. Indeed, the book is a 170 brilliant reprise of Sondheim’s ‘‘Send in the clowns,’’ but like the song, the punch line is long delayed. Consequently, there is slippage from reaching his definitive mountain top interpretation of Part IV of Gulliver’s Travels until the climactic last chapter. In the meantime, the reader must slog through the more accessible lowlands of all varieties of European savagery inflicted on New World, African, and so-called Irish savages and cannibals. Over eighty percent of the text consists of the most comprehensive compilations ever of the facts and fictions on mass destruction from Genesis to the Spartans and the Scythians to post-1492 travel literature, Montaigne and Swift to Sade, Wilde and Shaw to the Nazis. The assignment is to find representative Yahoos as seen from the European civilized perspective of ruling groups following global discoveries after 1492, and then to decide, fictionally or factually, whether mass extermination , the final solution, outweighs their labor value, yet matches their idleness and menace. Hiroshima has been left out, but not the other principal victims, including...