We explore the affective typography of Jonathan Swift's faux-posthumous poem Verses on the Death of Dr Swift, in the first Dublin edition, printed by George Faulkner in 1739. Swift directly influenced the physical as well as the lexical content of the Faulkner edition, thus encouraging reader engagement on a number of levels. This edition literalises the satirical practice of inviting readers to identify disguised objects of criticism, by leaving actual blanks and space for readers' insertions into the text.

Congruencies between Harold Love's description of 'scribal communities' and Barbara Rosenwein's 'emotional communities' allow for a deeper reading of texts in both their material dimensions and their affective power with their original audiences. In the case of Swift's Verses it is through reading manuscript insertions in the printed text that consequences for the history of emotions emerge. This extends a new approach to the satirical canon of the eighteenth century, proposing that such texts provided vessels for the expression and containment of volatile emotions such as anger and disgust. Rather than mapping modern psychological accounts onto older texts, this approach allows us to see, however vestigially, evidence of the passions in action in the reception of Swift's complexly autobiographical poem.


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pp. 353-369
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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