Colonial Discourse on Irish Dress and the Self as “Outward Dress”: Swift’s Sartorial Self-Fashioning
Abstract

ABSTRACT:

Jonathan Swift’s Irish writings are replete with sartorial imaginings that fashion his unique satirist self by interlacing, for mutual subversion, colonial discourse on Irish dress with a mock-Lockean idea of self as “outward Dress.” Swift contests the legacy of Edmund Spenser’s A View of the State of Ireland (ca. 1596), a colonial attack on Irish dress that combined the Renaissance notion of dress generating identity by permeating the wearer and a more modern presumption of essential differences between the Irish and (New) English. Swift’s insight into Spenser’s contradictory logic penetrates Jack’s sartorial “Projects of Separation” from Peter in A Tale of a Tub (1704), and culminates later in Gulliver’s Travels (1726) and A Modest Proposal (1729) when Gulliver and the Modest Proposer, in deed or word, skin the Yahoos/Irish and literally turn them into shoes, in resonance with both William Wood’s contumely “eat [y]our Brogues” and Spenser’s View. By reversing and revamping the colonial sign of Irish dress, Swift fashions and refashions his satirist self through a conscious mismatch of Anglican habit and Irish brogues.


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