Freedom Through Knowledge

Through his usage of quotes from famous English authors and the Bible, Equiano is able to establish himself as a voice of authority on the subject of slavery given his own knowledge and experiences. In chapter five, uses a quote from John Milton’s Paradise Lost, to attack the poor treatment of slaves, writing,

“—No peace is given

To us enslav’d, but custody severe;

And stripes and arbitrary punishment

Inflicted – What peace can we return?

But to our power, hostility and hate;

Untam’d reluctance, and revenge, through slow,

Yet ever plotting how the conqueror least

May reap his conquest, and may least rejoice

In doing what we most in suffering feel.”

I find that this chosen quote stands apart from many of the other quotes Equiano chose in his book, as unlike many of the other quotes that convey his personal knowledge, strength, and struggles to the reader, this one comes across more as a warning. Previously, many of his arguments have been based upon presenting slavery as immoral and not in line with prevailing enlightenment ideals, but this argument made by him using this quote presents slavery as a danger to society due to the risk of revolt and insurrection. Through his own personal experience, Equiano has shown that even a slave can become an individual that embodies the ideas of the enlightenment and this is not a result of being naturally inferior, but because what he sees as an effort being made to keep slaves ignorant. Seemingly, Equiano appears to present education as a means of ending slavery by showing that slaves are capable individuals when given opportunities from better treatment and that with better treatment, there will be no risk of a revolt or insurrection. But if the slaves are kept in ignorance and continue to be treated poorly, Equiano presents it as only a matter of time before the slaves see resistance as their only option like the fallen angels of Paradise Lost.

-Ryan Bucher

Demonstrative Equiano

Equiano’s ability to utilize the English language to his content obviously shows his stature as a learned individual—despite his upbringing. The automatic thought of someone in Equiano’s position, now and back then, is their unlikely ability to articulate their life and thoughts into a coherent structure rivaling other Enlightenment writers of the time. Equiano’s use of the English language throughout his autobiography demonstrates the access of the English language. Throughout the Enlightenment, and long after, the English language was prided as the domineering force that would “unite” the world, all ruled under the English language, if Dryden were to be believed. Then, what is essentially, the antithesis of the English language comes along as is able to write varied, well-structured sentences that demonstratively articulates his life. An instance of this is on page 92, of his autobiography, where he quotes Milton’s Paradise Lost as a way to describe his view of slavery. Upending the hegemonic notion of slavery, the taboo of Christian society, by using an upheld interpretation of Christian theology to describe his feelings. Leaving the ideologues of the English language blindsided by his own use of Milton, and that the English language itself can be easily understood and used by those being oppressed by it.

            Also, the English language was becoming a mainstream language that other countries began to understand and learn, diminishing its value as it became widespread. Showing the domineering nature of it, but occasionally it becomes upended by those being oppressed by the language—they are able to fully utilize it to their advantage and cite the English language’s most prized writers. In the eyes of those in economic power, it upends their arguments for slavery, now the English major can be used as a proponent against slavery and the captivity narrative by an actually held against their will captive; in an impressively written autobiography.

–Nicholas Vasquez Rodriguez

Using Satire as Fodder for Satire

The satirical engraving of Colley Cibber pulling Alexander Pope off of a prostitute (image #1), which criticized Pope’s satirical works, is both a malicious attack on Pope’s physical appearance, but also the fodder which Pope likely used to parody and replicate for The Dunciad. The engraving features a noble Cibber “saving Pope” from a prostitute, likely a symbolization of disease and therefore poor writing. Cibber, in the description below the image, is said to have saved British poetry by this act, since Pope was known to satirize old texts. While the comic was likely intended to cause emotional distress, it may have given Pope many of the ideas he used in The Dunciad, a critique on writers who are dull and/or corrupt. It is also worthwhile to mention that Pope’s work was significantly influenced by the ongoing rift between the sciences and humanities, the latter of which was recently under attack by poor writers and corruption, something Pope likely took personal offense to. Cibber, one of Pope’s more successful enemies and Poet Laureate, attack one another satirically, Pope using some of the same elements from the engraving and replicating them in a carnival fashion.

For example, Cibber in The Dunciad, is given the role of Dulness’ son, the Queen of the Kingdom of Dull, and the enemy of the sciences and humanities. He has a nobility role in this topsy-turvy land, and similar to the engraving, which imbues him with the duty to pull Pope off the prostitute and save literature. He is tasked, along with Dulness, to imprison and destroy Science, Wit, Logic, Rhet’ric, etc., the personifications of themselves. It is clear from the engraving that Cibber is supposedly doing Pope a favor for the good of everyone else, and Pope interprets this too in The Dunciad, although flipping the meaning. Pope interprets it as chaotic and evil, writing that when Cibber and his legion of supporters (Dulness, clerk, etc.) have successfully eradicated all Enlightenment ideals, “thy dread Empire, CHAOS! Is restor’d…And Universal Darkness buries All”. Even the prostitute makes a significant appearance in both satirical works, both symbolizing a blight upon the world, although one in a negative connotation; in The Dunciad, as a positive one. It is important to recognize that the prostitute in the satirical engraving allows for a deformed Pope to perch “pertly on the Mount of Love” and thus be inflicted by poor writing. In The Dunciad, the prostitute’s role is the same, although instead of afflicting Pope, she is the harbinger for “Division”, giving scorn to the Muses of ancient Greece, and therefore Enlightenment ideals.

Based on these similar points, it is likely that Pope took the form of the satirical engraving meant to mock him and use it to mock his enemies. While not a direct hypertext, Pope incorporates many of the same elements such as pretention and blight, and the characters of Cibber and the prostitute. Seeing as Pope was a master of satire, it is not hard to fall under the assumption that Pope likely saw the engraving and utilized it for his own gain.

-Sara Nuila-Chae


Circular Reasoning

The cartoon quite literally makes a monkey out of Pope and his words hang over the ears of an ass. This in simplistic observation, is trivializing his intelligence and accusing him of being a figurative animal and insulting his intelligence. The irony here is the hypocrisy this perpetuates. In calling him a fool and overly generalizing the satirist, the cartoonist satirizes himself. The Dunciad can be considered an oversimplification for providing very vague criticisms. It writes:

Beneath her foot-stool, Science 10  groans in Chains,

And Wit dreads Exile, Penalties and Pains.

There foam’d rebellious Logic, gagg’d and bound [25]

It is very straightforward. Rationality itself is being stifled in the world, but by the cartoonist’s derivation of Pope’s work, he is just perpetuating a generality. He is simply making a literal ass out of him. By interpreting or criticizing the passage in its most general direct form, the cartoonist is simply proving Pope’s point. Part of the satire in The Dunciad revolves around the overgeneralization of rationality itself. By lumping all distinct criticisms as a whole, the whole perpetuation of trivializing collective reasoning is cyclical. The irony is this post itself presents a very generic discussion on generality, which in turn makes me an ass of myself, but I cannot fully represent the generalized satire as a whole otherwise.

-Kevin Martinez

Cimmerian Gloom

Pope visual satire

(Image #1: The Brothel Incident)

Despite his struggles growing up alienated by society due to his religious faith and fighting against his disabilities and illness, Alexander Pope managed to break through the realm of English Literature against all odds with his skills and poetic finesse. Unfortunately, his mass attention also drew in several critics and harassers who wanted nothing more than to ridicule Pope and tear down the success he worked so hard to build for himself. As a result, several examples of shameless bullying arose in the form of various drawings that teased Pope for his various features, such as his short size. One such image depicts Colley Cibber, a renowned English writer during Pope’s time, pulling a dwarf-sized Pope off a naked woman’s body as the seventh Earl of Warrick looks on this scandalous activity. No doubt this rumored event brought much shame and further harassment towards Pope’s established image, yet Pope would soon have his chance to return the gesture to his rival in his satirical piece The Dunciad.

Within his own epic poem in which society values sloppy writing and techniques over skillful ones, Pope, in he revised version of Book 4, places Colley Cibber himself as “the king of Dunces,” going so far as to tease his “Cibberian forehead” and “Cimmerian gloom” as Cibber once teased Pope over his own proportions and character:

“But she, good Goddess, sent to ev’ry child
Firm Impudence, or Stupefaction mild;
And strait succeeded, leaving shame no room,
Cibberian forehead, or Cimmerian gloom” (ll. 529;532)

Connecting Pope’s revenge for Cibber’s crude bullying shows how far Pope delved into his epic in order to retaliate at everyone who tried to put him down when he was at his most vulnerable state. Given the content contained within The Dunciad, Pope seemed determined to right all of the wrongs he had received throughout his career and use his developed satirical style to properly evaluate and criticize those who deserve it instead of the shameful bullying he endured.


–Jose Ramirez


Repetition in Language

In Part 1, “A Voyage to Lilliput” from Gulliver Swift’s travels, he records the words that his captors cry multiple instances, “cried out in a shrill but distinct voice: Hekinah degul,” “he cried out three times, Langro dehul san,” etc. After every instance, he accounts the repetition of the words by his captors. Evidently, Swift’s use of language repetition is a satirization on captivity narratives similar to Rowlandson. In a true captivity narrative, the narrator generally does not record the detailed wording of their captors because it is difficult to remember every particular conversation. Captivity narratives are more personal, delving into the individual’s emotions in comparison to a fictional piece, and Swift’s travels read as fictional. It is indicative in Swift’s selection of language and format, that his tale’s intend to satirize the popular captivity narrative. Through exaggerating the language of his captives with repetition, he causes the language to have a magical perception, similar to magic words, “bippity, bopping, boo.” A completely fictions word that is widely recognized as nonsensical, but used in the connotation of repetition and magic.

-Hongxi Su

Swift’s Mirror of Hypocrisy

Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels is a piece of work that functions tirelessly as a critique of the Enlightenment period. He uses satire and parody as a means to illuminate the faults of the captivity and travel narratives that rose as genres at the time. With Bacon’s “New Atlantis,” the projection of a perfect Utopian society allowed for individuals to imagine the possibility of life and space where all things were perfect and everything ran smoothly. While this is a great idea, one that I feel all of us wish were true, Swift not only laughs at the presentation of this idea amongst imperialism, genocide, and booming racism, but he also forces the reader to meet head to head with its’ irony.

In chapter three of part one, he writes:
“I sworn and subscribed to the Articles with great Cheerfulness and Contentment, although some of them were not so honorable as I could have wished;…… Whereupon my Chains were immediately unlocked, and I was at full liberty.” (44)

Swift here presents a passive aggressive tone that strikingly targets the hypocrisy found within Bacon’s suggested Utopian society during a time where freedom for all is not seen as that important than the freedom of some. Swift juxtaposes the words “chains” and “liberty” in the same sentence, sarcastically alluding to the impossibility of being ultimately free while still bound by the chains of authorial oppression. He capitalizes “Cheerfulness” and “Contentment” as a means to heighten these proposals with the purpose of bringing them down to sheer reality. Swift wants the readers to recognize that while these ideas are high and mighty; while you may be seen as an excellent person for proposing these ideas- with no execution in the real world, these ideas mean nothing. Treat here is mirroring reality amongst the reflection of hypocrisy.

-Angelica Costilla

Rowlandson and Gulliver

  • Isabel P

Satire and the Enlightenment. Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels is a satire that is essentially a critique on colonial expansion around the world and specifically was chose to poke fun of indecencies caused by the greed and accounts of such travels to new places. The relationship between Gulliver and Lilliputians people is essentially a satirical comparison to that of colonial powers and natives.

Lilliputians represents colonial powers, although they think they are strong because of their weapons specifically the arrows Gulliver is afraid of, and with Gulliver representing natives. The Lilliputians are a critic of how small colonial powers really are and Gulliver serves to be shown as a submissive character that is supposed to represent natives. The power struggling seeming to be ridiculous due to Gulliver being able to retaliate because of his size, but for some reason he is scared of small insignificant, it seems, weapons. Gulliver is letting himself be treated like this because with his size we could assume he could do whatever he wanted against these small(er) people.

The emperor, with the ridiculous way of trying to defend themselves by having a small miniature weapon (sword) on him, seems to demonstrate the naivety of colonial powers and how with this irony. A small weapon and small man against a giant, doesn’t seem right, right? This parallels Enlightenment due to the satire of the whole situation and the whole situation is separated from reason. This example when compared to Mary Rowlandson tobacco smoking is ironic. She acts as if Natives are barbaric for smoking although she has done it too her justification being her past naivety and religion. Reason not being a strong suit by both oppressive powers to demonize what they don’t know.

Rowlandson with the Natives in comparison to Lilliputians and Gulliver. Although both are animalized, and taken advantage of, for different reasons they both face the sad irony of dehumanization due to wrongful entitlement.

For example:

“I took them all in my right hand, put five of them into my coat-pocket; and as to the sixth, I made a countenance as if I would eat him alive.  The poor man squalled terribly, and the colonel and his officers were in much pain, especially when they saw me take out my penknife: but I soon put them out of fear; for, looking mildly, and immediately cutting the strings he was bound with, I set him gently on the ground, and away he ran.  I treated the rest in the same manner, taking them one by one out of my pocket; and I observed both the soldiers and people were highly delighted at this mark of my clemency, which was represented very much to my advantage at court (Part 1, Chapter 2).”

As for what is demonstrated is that Gulliver has the real power although he is being held “captive.” And in comparison to Rowlandson; she too held the real power. She, even though, she went through her towns demolition by retaliating natives, but  she ultimately had all the power because of her ties to Colonial English forces. Because ultimately the retaliation of colonial powers sadly represents the animalization, taking advantage of, and murder of natives. Especially with the spread of ideologies demonstrating the animalization of natives like how it had been done by Rowlandson.

Old Gully’s Satire

In Jonathan Swift’s book Gulliver’s Travels, it can definitely be noted that Swift uses satire to parody the captivity narrative and travel narrative that were so popular at the time. He does this by creating a work of fiction that encompasses all the aspects of a captivity and travel narrative in it. Many of these aspects include using certain words to describe the natives as well as incorporating the actual language of the other island people. Even the way Gulliver acts around the natives, emphasizes the relationship between the narrator and their captors. These different examples can be first seen in chapter 1 where Gulliver describes how the natives capture him. He says, “But I should have mentioned, that before the principal person began his oration, he cried out three times, Langro dehul san…” In this sentence he parodies the use of native language that Mary Rowlandson had in her narrative. He also writes later on in that same paragraph:

“I answered in a few words, but in the most submissive manner, lifting up my left hand, and both my eyes to the sun, as calling him for a witness; and being almost famished with hunger, having not eaten a morsel for some hours before I left the ship, I found the demands of nature so strong upon me, that I could not forbear showing my impatience (perhaps against the strict rules of decency) by putting my finger frequently to my mouth, to signify that I wanted food.”

Notice how he used the words “submissive” and “impatience” in the same sentence. To me these two words have very different tones and meanings, and they definitely contradict each other. Meaning that Gulliver recognizes that he has to act a certain way in order to get what he wants, and then figures out that he can exploit this advantage to gain things in his favor.

-Laura Mateo Gallegos

Another Island of Enlightenment

In part one, chapter three, after being told of the obligations that he must perform for Lilliput, Gulliver writes that, “I swore and subscribed to these articles with great cheerfulness and content, although some of them were now so honourable as I could have wished … I made my acknowledgements by prostrating myself at his majesty’s feet …” regarding his new duties. I believe that his willingness to so easily accept what could be considered ridiculous demands created by Skyresh Bolgolam, someone who openly disliked Gulliver, is meant to satirize Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis. Gulliver is presented to the reader as a man of the enlightenment who examines the world as a rationale and knowledgeable individual, yet he doesn’t find anything odd or weird regarding the demands placed upon him regarding where and when he can go places, or the demands that he must fight for Lilliput and assist their workmen. Despite effectively being a slave and still a prisoner, Gulliver’s only complaint is that some of the demands weren’t as honorable as he was expecting.

The irony of this situation is that this far away lost island, similar to Bacon’s mythical utopian island of Bensalem, is seen by an individual that embodies the ideas of the enlightenment, to be perfectly reasonable with their requests and customs. Even though Gulliver could be considered enlightened by European standards, to the people of the island, he is seemingly unenlightened given his lack of knowledge regarding the proper way to handle himself on their island. Though Gulliver is massive in comparison to everyone and everything else on the island, he is seemingly regarded to be in a position of inferiority to the Lilliputians because of his lack of enlightenment by their standards and his knowledge on certain subjects which they consider wrong. The customs of the island work to satirize many European customs, appearing to show that the customs and traditions themselves are not superior merely for existing, but because the Europeans hold a dominant position and as a result, believe their culture to be superior. Just like Bensalem, Lilliput too is an island of knowledge and enlightenment for someone who has never been there before.

-Ryan Bucher