Asparagus, beer and Swift

Posted by Abigail Williams on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 with No comments
Just back from the Sixth Munster Symposium on Jonathan Swift (commonly known as 'the Swiftathon'), having consumed more Swift, asparagus, beer and pork in three days than is surely healthy for any woman. It was an exhilarating parade of some of the best that Swift studies has to offer, ranging from doll's house furniture in Gulliver's Travels to significant commas in the sermons. There were two especially miscellany-related papers. One was by Nick Seager (University of Keele) on the serialization and continuation of Gulliver, and the way in which the original narrative was cut, pasted, reinvented and repackaged for later readers, in much the same way that we are finding that miscellany-compilers did with poetry. The second was James Woolley's (see our 'People' page) remarkable account of Swift's most popular poems - or rather, what was actually popular, rather than what we think must have been popular. His data comes from his compendious Swift Poems Chronology database. Drawing heavily on miscellanies and jest books, he showed some surprise hits - like 'As Thomas Was Cudgell'd' - trumping much more familiar material. His conclusion - that this model of reception history should unsettle our sense of the popular and canonical, and prompt us to question how and what historical readers actually read and liked is one of the aims of the Digital Miscellanies Index.