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

Humanistic or Sympathetic Compassion?

For as most as wanted to agree with most of my peers, it was very difficult to fluently feel guilt to what occurred to Mary Rowlandson and her loved ones. It may seem barbaric to be able to give the benefit of the doubt to those that caused such wreck in their lives, but it’s something I can’t simply deny that she had it coming. There’s a saying that lives on to this day; a dog that barks doesn’t bite. For more I want to feel compassion for Mary Rowlandson, I can’t. She was a colonist that knew her power stance amongst the natives and it came countering her back amongst her family as well for it.

Similar to us, the natives too felt compassion for Rowlandson and maintained her health and well-being in check before encountering King Phillip. She still felt the sensation of threat, but the natives were quick to reassure her to never worry for that would never occur. She expresses her gratitude as it, “was more worth than many bushels at another time”. This contradicts the notion that she pursued throughout her work, that native only inflicted pain and violence to those unknown, but that was never true. Perhaps Rowlandson restrained herself from including more details in order to protect her Puritan chastity, but it’s probably for the best that we restrain ourselves to be more lenient with her character against the Algonquian people. As similar as my peer, I would agree to incline that Mary Rowlandson eventually developed compassion towards her captors.


For as more I cannot feel compassion for her wrongdoings, there was one of my classmates that was able to compel to me that he too did not feel compassion for her whatsoever, but realized it was simply because he and I both knew her mischiefs beforehand in comparison to the natives. Today, in the 21st century, we students are more familiarized with her personal background than the Algonquian people ever will. And I had an epiphany because of we, as students are more knowledgeable of Rowlandson today in contrast to people back then, we can’t sympathize with her, but we could feel compassion for Mary Rowlandson in a more Humanistic approach. Never would we want to see anyone is harmed in such a matter that she endured. Being held captive for weeks on end, the torture of her family and the death of her baby; makes us be more endearing towards her. Humanistically, we sympathize for her.

– Stephen Muñoz

A Beautiful World of Ethereal Places and Ephemereal Wonders

Their colors are distinct as those of the sun and regularly and obviously blended, though less vivid, fine specimens may be found any night at the foot of the upper Yosemite fall, glowing gloriously amid the gloomy shadows and thundering waters, whenever there is plenty of moonlight and spray.

– John Muir

Dear my fellow venerable peers and aspiring scholars, I present to you a plea.

Awaken your slumbering reverence of nature within. This world that we share asks for our appreciation now more than ever. The strength of a movement is determined by the collection of the will of its individuals. Wordsworth intuitively composed his poetry at a time of boiling industrial forthcoming, but do not hesitate to relate its antiquity to the pertinence it has in a world of modern environmental peril. Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads is as contemporary to our present problematic endeavors with Earth as you could possibly imagine. Their words continue to speak for a voiceless mother Earth, the most beautiful of all planets we have ever encountered. As students of the University of California, Merced, we are granted an opportunity to embrace a pioneering spirit that has fueled and characterized the United States of America for centuries. Considering our proximity to the greatest wilderness of them all, Yosemite, we are living embodiments of Frederick Jackson Turner’s Frontier Thesis, which spoke to the roaring passion for Western expansion and human inquisitiveness. Go forth and revel within the temples of awful (awe-inspiring) natural wonder, avoid the temptation and distractions of modernity, as they serve no true purpose to your free-spirited soul.

Wordsworth and Coleridge have me lost in a world of beauty and pain. Romanticism speaks to me like a siren-wailing fire truck calls to a lonesome canine to howl incessantly. I’m enamored by this imaginative prose, delicate as a rose, insinuating thoughts of philosophical scorn, like an unforgiving thorn. I have literally and figuratively lost myself in the forests of the Sierra Nevada, blanketed by chilling darkness, but it was then, that I had ever felt more alive. I was young then, and my eyes scrambled in the twilight in fear of black bears. I know now, that these lovable bears in comparison to fearsome grizzlies of the north or population dwindling from receding landscapes of polar bears, are not to be feared. Fresh mountain wind,  towering sequoias revived me from my past loathsome troubles that lay insidious within my mind for so long. The landscapes of this breathtaking mountain range lay etched in my thoughts even with my eyes closed, and are now ingrained in me for the rest of my existence.

The painting “Buttermere Lake: A Shower”, instills moody thoughts in a gloomy overcast. I initially see a bleak landscape of melancholy, that speaks of a desolate past. The rainbow from the painting reminds me of Lower Yosemite Fall’s moonbows. We are within 2 hours of North America’s tallest waterfall. An exciting thought to contemplate itself. I look within these dark clouds of anguish and uncertainty, however, and I find hope. Just as I once lost my wallet and my keys in Yosemite and panicked for my life, I would eventually calm down and see that they were exactly where I had placed, underneath a pile of my belongings. There is always hope even in death and absolute remorse. Even if you cannot see it, there is always light somewhere within or somewhere far beyond the twilight zone. It is only in darkness that light truly shines. Be courageous in the face of overwhelming odds. Fight on until your last dying breath, and submit to no oppressive force. I reference another poem that carries my sentiments. “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” – Dylan Thomas

Buttermere Lake, with Part of Cromackwater, Cumberland, a Shower exhibited 1798 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

Joseph William Turner’s painting carries multiple aspects of Romanticism within its frame. It is an encapsulation of the feelings and emotions of The Lyrical Ballads. Expostulation and Reply discusses enjoying nature even if its morals and lessons taught are not as direct as a lecture of philosophy or a laboratory session of science.

"You look round on your Mother Earth,
          As if she for no purpose bore you; 
          As if you were her first-born birth,
          And none had lived before you!"

William is expostulated by Matthew. Why does he seem to mindless observe the world with his mind adrift in solitary rumination?

"Nor less I deem that there are Powers
          Which of themselves our minds impress;
          That we can feed this mind of ours
          In a wise passiveness.

William explains his penchant for wonderful Mother Earth. He feels that he assimilates notions of patience and lessons of wisdom in the stillness of meditation and deep contemplation.

Landscapes like the one Turner paints and the ones that you can come across after hiking to a viewpoint are so powerful, that you can’t help but lay speechless. I recall the times I’ve been such amazing views like Glacier Point and Angel’s Landing, and I sat startled and comforted by the immense grandeur for hours.

I make one last reference to another one of Wordsworth’s poems. I ask that you consider your lifestyle and your attachments to materials, just like Wordsworth attempts to convey the contempt of materialism. A life is meant to be fulfilled with experience, and not meaningless objects.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers

The World is Too Much With Us

William Wordsworth

Earth day is on April 22. Also, National Park Week is April 15-23. On April 15 and 16 and again on April 22 and 23 you can visit any national park in the country free of charge. As the heavy snowfall from this year’s dramatic winter begins to recede in the Sierra Nevada, I encourage you to take part in experiencing our world within its raw natural boundaries, rather than dwelling within unsatisfying cities. The following link is a website that has been instrumental in my transition from childhood to young adulthood. It has guided me with a knowledgeable content of incredible hikes in Yosemite and also carries a comedic and informative style of prose. Check it out!

One last note. Last winter I explored Zion National Park, and after embarking on a notoriously scary but enjoyable hike, I found a drone sitting atop Angel’s Landing. Flying drones are strictly prohibited in these National Parks, and I felt obligated to find the owner before a ranger confiscated it. I’ve been looking for the owner ever since. After a considerable amount of time debating with myself internally over ethical matters, I decided to examine the footage of nature. I was absolutely blown away, and I feel compelled to share. I hope that everyone has the desire to embark on their own expeditions. I recommend the HD setting for enhanced theatrics.



Thomas Pham

Romantic Yellow Nature

Wordworth’s poem “Lines Written in Early Spring” and Caspar David Friedrich’s “The Monk by the Sea”
reveal reactions to the Industrial Revolution by Romantic artists. In both poems, nature is depicted as
unhealthy; and who fault is it? Humans’.
In Friedrich’s painting, the sky above the sea is full of heavy clouds. There seems to be a blue sky in the
work, almost like behind the painting. In a sense, the sky is obscured, the clouds seem mudded and the
sky is unclear. The clouds have a yellow-like tint to them, something doesn’t seem natural about the sky
in the painting.
The blue sky, as we know it, is a result of the sun’s light entering the Earth’s atmosphere and scattering
once that incoming light collides with gases and particles in the air. So, the particles and gases in the sky determine
the sky’s color: dust and pollution particles create more reds and yellows in the sky. Friedrich captures a
traditionally beautiful scene, and depicts it by adding a yellow that shows the toxic pollution particles of
the Industrial Revolution. Instead of feeling calm and escaping into a scene away from the real world,
Friedrich creates a painting that doesn’t invite anyone to escape to. Instead, I think he poses an
interesting question: Why should we need to use a painting to escape the real world and go somewhere
else for a few minutes, when we can just go outside and commit to appreciating and protecting our own
Similarly, the speaker in Wordworth’s poem is in a state of reflection. The speaker knows exactly what
spring should look and sound like, but it just isn’t. The third verse really highlights the state in which
nature finds itself after the Industrial Revolution; there is diction that suggest unhealthiness in nature.
Wordsworth provides a very insightful line loaded with dark imagery carried through diction, “The
periwinkle trail’d its wreaths;/and ’tis my faith that every flower/Enjoys the air it breaths.” The
periwinkle is a wild-like yellow flower that blooms in early spring. It’s a naturally beautiful flower, but
when accompanied with “…trail’d its wreaths”, there is a funeral and death-like imagery here with the
word “wreaths” as well as a the gasp for air that the word “breaths” requests. We can see again, that like
Friedrich’s attempt to appreciate the environment, Wordsworth creates a sense of immediacy in his
poem that really yells: Nature is dying! Do something about it!
I think that the yellowness in both these works, along with a more realistic representation of the current
state of the environment really interrogates their audience and there is a “heightened examination of
human personality and its moods and mental potentialities” as described in the Lecture Note 8. I think
what both works accomplish is really reminding the audience of how much individual potential everyone
has. Wordsworth gets at this interrogation with repeating the phrase, “What man has made of man.” He
ends the poem with the same phrase, phrased as a question: “What man has made of man?” The
responsibility is on the reader now. They have the power and potential to change the world!
But I am curious who Romantics have in mind when they broaden their work up to encompass “human
personality.” Is it truly “human personality”; is it every human? Or is it just who they deemed human?

-Israel Alonso

How I Met Your English Language

In Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language, he expresses his feelings clearly in the preface. “…I found our speech copious without order, and energetick without rules: wherever I turned my view, there was a perplexity to be disentangled, and confusion to be regulated…” (1). In this quote, Johnson is clearly showing his disdain for the English language as it is “copious without order” and “energetick without rules” and so on. In other words, he believes that the English language is chaotic and ruleless. In a way, Johnson is eluding that the language is pretty much an anarchy because it has no order or established rules. He goes on to say “…choice was to be made out of boundles of variety, without any established principle of selection; adulterations were to be detected, without a settled test of purity…” (1). Johnson continues to express his dislike of the English language yet again by characterizing it as impure as there have been adulterations within the language. Think of it as a recipe for apple pie that has been ruined by ingredients that aren’t supposed to be there. With the use of apples (European fruit), the chef decided to add lemon (origin from India/China) and watermelons (origin from Eygpt) into the recipe. Obviously, the aftermath won’t be apple pie but something that is made out of “boundles of variety, without any established principle of selection”. The English language is not perfect, but it isn’t great either. However, Thomas Babington Macaulay would like to have a word with Johnson.

Although Johnson expressed his difficulties in understanding and explaining the English language, Macaulay believes the English language is the key to success. Even though Johnson had troubles with the impurity of the English language, Macaulay sees the rich history of the English language. To be fair, Johnson had to write a whole dictionary for the English language where Macaulay was only an advocator for the language in the British colonies. In the Minute on Education, Macaulay expresses his belief that the English language is “immeasurable” compared to others. In comparison to Sanscrit language, the English language puts it to shame in terms of value. As he states in excerpt 11: “…I certainly never met with any orientalist who ventured to maintain that the Arabic and Sanscrit poetry could be compared to that of the great European nations. But when we pass from works of imagination to works in which facts are recorded and general principles investigated, the superiority of the Europeans becomes absolutely immeasurable. It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in the Sanscrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgments used at preparatory schools in England” (11). In the beginning of this excerpt, Macalulay talks about the highest form of literature in India being poetry. Sure, the poetry there might be great before but it does match the value those of English poetry. And when people look back in history, the only poetry people will remember are those by the English. Tellingly, he is saying that even though India’s highest form of literature is poetry, the English can do it better. The value of English poetry is much more memorable than that of Eastern poetry. And because of that, it is one of the many reasons why the English language should be implemented in the educational systems of the colonies.

Throughout the passage, Macaulay is suggesting that the language of Arabic and Sanscrit are not as great as English. But not in terms of being a language itself, but the value of the language. “I have never found one among them [scholars of Sanscrit and Arabic] who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia. The intrinsic superiority of the Western literature is indeed fully admitted by those members of the committee who support the oriental plan of education” (10). As stated before, the value of the English language is so rich and great that the libraries of any European nation would be much better than the literature that has been produced by India and Arabia. Overall, Macaulay is definitely suggesting that the language spoken by the colonies are worthless when being compared to the English language, a language that has such amazing value and history behind it. Macaulay is not only expressing his distaste of the other languages, but also the history and culture behind the language. Not a single literary work can come close to European literature because the language and the history behind it aren’t as good as the Europeans.

But why is the English language need to be taught to these colonies? Because the English language holds the key value of science. “To that class we may leave it to refine the vernacular dialects of the country, to enrich those dialects with terms of science borrowed from the Western nomenclature, and to render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge…” (34). Macaulay then puts the language and culture of Sanscrit and Arabic in full blast: “We are to teach it because it is fruitful of monstrous superstitions. We are to teach false history, false astronomy, false medicine, because we find them in company with a false religion. We abstain, and I trust shall always abstain, from giving any public encouragement to those who are engaged in the work of converting the natives to Christianity. And while we act thus, can we reasonably or decently bribe men, out of the revenues of the State, to waste their youth in learning how they are to purify themselves after touching an ass or what texts of the Vedas they are to repeat to expiate the crime of killing a goat?” (31). All in all, he is explaining the importance of the English language because it was them that went through the age of science through the use of the language. In addition to that, he is not a fan of the practices of Indian traditions and sees them as a waste of time for people to learn. Therefore, he is promoting the use of the English language to be the language to promote the knowledge of the Enlightenment to these countries that lacked valuable knowledge.

In the end, the goal is to assume the colony with their own agenda. And in this case, that is to promote the English language. To be more surgical, they would need to promote the language so they could replace the history that is already there with something else. If the Sanscrit and Arabic languages are displayed as inferior to that of the English language, then the culture and history behind it will be diminished as well. And throughout the passage it is seen to be deconstructed each time and deemed less important. And once it is gone, it is justifiable to colonize the nation without any backlash from the colonizers and sympathizers. Regardless of the English languages “impurities”, the language has evolved in Macaulay’s eyes and it needs to expand.

  • Christopher Luong

English, you got some learning to do.

From what I understand, not much has changed from Samuel Johnson to Macaulay and the status of the English language. Johnson and Macaulay still hold English as this imperialist language that should rule over other cultures, other “savages.” As we already know, Samuel Johnson’s goal was to create records of the English vocabulary, STANDARDIZING it; before this, the English language was influenced by other languages; Jutes, Anglo, and Saxons, being the origin of this complex language, following many other languages as talked about in this week’s blog post from my fellow classmates. Whatever Johnson’s intentions with standardizing English, it opened up new opportunities to record the ever evolutionizing language, yet it also created limits, that could be manipulated by people in power such as Macaulay that prevented English from expansion. Macaulay argued against the government “which have hitherto been spent in encouraging the study of Arabic and Sanscrit” which he disagrees and calls it useless, calling it “downright spoliation” (Macaulay 5). I would disagree with Macaulay and say that learning from other languages such as Arabic and Sanscrit would not ruin or destroy the English language, but it would be able to learn other perspectives such as in the sciences, language offers perspectives, if we look back to the Royal Society, their society was built off the Greek and Roman perspectives they did not hinder the language, but was able to expand the studies in other fields such as science. What is spoliation though is the fact that people would be comfortable with a stagnant language, because of the lack of courage to learn other languages for pride on being THE most powerful language.

This offers the perspective that English could be and in fact is the bridging tool to connecting to others cultures and beliefs. Yet, it is being time and time delayed by these elites and/or imperialist beliefs that linger in politicians such as Macaulay. Today in the twenty first century, many people recognize that English is a powerful language and it has been because it has taken from other cultures, other tongues. But it has taken and not really reciprocated and the proof is in media and entertainment, such as music. There are artist, groups or bands for example that are Spanish, Japanese, or Korean etc, and use the English language to write lyrics; but you’ll rarely see a pop song that that includes lyrics of other languages. Why is that? English, you got some more learning to do…

“Perfection of Nature”

The Houyhnhnms (the horse civilization) in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels seem like an ideal place in the eyes of the titular Gulliver, as they often seem to be surprised by the problems facing his society. While disregarding the fact that it is a race of horses, Gulliver was venting to his “master” how humans in his civilization “could never have enough” (Gulliver 231) money to spend so they are always in necessity of it because they feel it is the most fundamental basis for life. It is actually kind of Marxist of Gulliver to explain this to his “master,” and it is also kind of Marxist of the talking horse to respond with saying it is a “miserable country which cannot furnish food for its own inhabitants” (232). The Houyhnhnms seem to be the perfect civilization in the eyes of Gulliver, despite having to call one of them “master,” and being subject to the inspection and vetting of them to make sure Gulliver is not a Yahoo.

The Yahoos are a human civilization that the talking horses consider savages, which gives the Houyhnhnms the reason to believe Gulliver is one of them. The Houyhnhnms use their own frame of reference to inspect Gulliver and differentiate him from the Yahoos they have not known to be “teachable,” civil or clean (216). We have to pick up the subtle clues that these horses are not in fact an ideal race, or a city upon a hill, as Winthrop would put it. The reason the horses think of Gulliver as an exceptional Yahoo is because the Yahoos are othered in the eyes of the Houyhnhnms, so they see him as a kind of anomaly and nothing more. In other words, Gulliver is othered as well, because he is still filtered through the original stereotype of the Yahoos. Swift goes as far as to use linguistics to make this race of horses similar to the Eurocentric behavior of the people in England. Gulliver notes how the etymology of the word Houyhnhnm means “perfection of nature” (217) as jab from Swift to the hubris of the elite in his own country. The satire here is that, as readers, we cannot seem to get our mind off the fact that these are literally talking horses. This ridiculous choice from Swift is to play with the subjectivity of the reader.

Cesar Ramirez

Utopia and Mr. Swift

So the topic of debate today is does Swift believe that the horse race in Gulliver’s travels is utopian, more or less. I think that based on the discussion we had in class about it it clearly is. The Houyhnhnms clearly are on the same intellectual level as Gulliver but are able to think an act in a way that is reversed from the Yahoos, who do not have much intelligence at all.

Personally I found it very interesting that a horse-like species was used to represent the society that can make decisions rationally and without any emotion added into the mix. I don’t know if the definition of a utopia has to be attainable, but I mean clearly the Yahoos are close to humans so it’s interesting that the Houyhnhnms were chosen to be the model species. Utopias in literature, at least most of the ones I can think of, end up being dystopias in the end. And almost always because of human elements like greed (like in the caes of communism or capitalism or underwater cities free from laws or whatever else). So when Swift uses something that isn’t human perhaps he is arguing *against* utopias existing at all since they are not human anymore.

Thus you might say that Swift was Satirizing the Enlightenment? You know, the Enlightenment with all those Utopian ideals?

Joshua Jolly

Man In the Mirror? Or Horse in the Mirror?

Is Jonathan Swift Taking a Shot at Colonialism?

“I have already observed that they are subject to no diseases, and therefore can have no need of physicians. However, they have excellent medicines, composed of herbs, to cure accidental bruises and cuts in the pastern or frog of the foot, by sharp stones, as well as other maims and hurts in the several parts of the body” (349). This seems to be taking a shot at colonialism because it is well documented that the colonists brought diseases to the west. However, these Houyhnhnms have never been in contact with any type of disease. When Gulliver talks about the use of herbs it could be interpreted that the Houyhnhnms could also be a representation of the Native Americans. Before the arrival of the British or any European nation, the Native Americans were disease-free. There were no such things as smallpox or measles, but there were remedies for aches and pain in the form of ancient herbs. In my opinion, Swift intends to make the Houyhnhnms as innocent beings; just like the Native Americans.

But is this the case for Yahoos? In some way, the Yahoos could be a representation of what has become of those who have “fallen”. They are also animals, and very similar to those of a human. The reason why I say Yahoos are a representation of Native Americans that have become affected by the Europeans is because they are the only animals to have ever gotten sick. Not only that, but also their form of medication is just as bad as poop. Yes, poop!

“Their next business is from herbs, minerals, gums, oils, shells, salts, juices, sea-weed, excrements, barks of trees, serpents, toads, frogs, spiders, dead men’s flesh and bones, birds, beasts, and fishes, to form a composition, for smell and taste, the most abominable, nauseous, and detestable, they can possibly contrive, which the stomach immediately rejects with loathing, and this they call a vomit; or else, from the same store-house, with some other poisonous additions, they command us to take in at the orifice above or below (just as the physician then happens to be disposed) a medicine equally annoying and disgustful to the bowels; which, relaxing the belly, drives down all before it; and this they call a purge, or a clyster” (323).

Just like the Houyhnhnms, they have their own types of remedies but they also use the likes of spiders, dead human flesh and bones, poop, piss, etc. These all seem to be things that are less than likely to be actual medication or remedies. But they mix their medication with their own excrements and that sounds dangerous because it could potentially cause diseases to spread around. Other than that, the intention here is to prove how far these animals have fallen because of these “evils” that have consumed them. In such a manner, that I believe Swift’s intention here is to represent two sides of the Natives: the innocence and the destruction that has been set upon them.

Houyhnhnms: How the Enlightenment Should Be Like

Swift writes about the Houyhnhnms as if they are the ideas brought up during the Enlightenment. This is based on Gulliver’s observations of the Houyhnhnms in chapter 9, “They calculate the year by the revolution of the sun and moon, but use no subdivisions into weeks. They are well enough acquainted with the motions of those two luminaries, and understand the nature of eclipses; and this is the utmost progress of their astronomy” (349-350). Thus, showing the advancement of intellectual movement like the Enlightenment. By knowing the revolution of the sun and moon, they are able to identify how long a year is. Just like us today, we would also rely on this knowledge to calculate the days of the year. However, the difference between humans and Houyhnhnms is that humans actually divide the year into months, days, and weeks. Other than that, the Houyhnhnms do have knowledge of astronomy which was a very new concept within the Enlightenment era. The age of the Enlightenment showed the development of science, and so on it spread throughout Europe. In the lecture notes, it states the book satirizes ideas of the Enlightenment. And on top of that, during lecture, it has been noted that Swift was a supporter of the movement as well. I believe this is one of the many implications where Gulliver suggests that not only are Houyhnhnms the perfect example of followers of the Enlightenment, but also an example for mankind to follow. But Swift? Maybe their ideas are great but not everything is so perfect.

Poetry in a Reasonable Society? Nonsense!

Gulliver also makes a good point in chapter 9 when he states “In poetry, they must be allowed to excel all other mortals; wherein the justness of their similes, and the minuteness as well as exactness of their descriptions, are indeed inimitable. Their verses abound very much in both of these, and usually contain either some exalted notions of friendship and benevolence or the praises of those who were victors in races and other bodily exercise” (350). Here, he states that the Houyhnhnms are free to do create poetry. They are very skilled at creating poetry that it is impossible to imitate. And the message behind their poems would be either of positive things such as friendship, love, kindness, and winners. This to me, seems to be a response to Thomas Sprat’s perspective of the use of storytelling, poetry, and metaphors: ““…nothing may be sooner obtained than this vicious abundance of Phrase, this trick of Metaphors, this volubility of Tongue…” (Sprat, p. 2176). The Enlightenment was more than just a science revolution, it was the age of reason. And because of that, poetry was put on the shelf during the movement.

I believe what Swift is trying to convey here is that the Houyhnhnms are capable to do anything they want without being criticized for not being “reasonable”. In addition to that, I think Swift is saying that poetry can be great on its own category. The society that the Houyhnhnms have created for themselves are “perfect”. In a sense, where they can do absolutely anything without the interference of evil or corruption. And as innocent as they are, in a society where Sprat wants only reason and evidence, the Houyhnhnms wouldn’t know what they have done wrong because they believe it is right to create poetry. They are able to make poetry and work on science at the same time; unlike the actual Enlightenment. Therefore, I believe Gulliver is suggesting that it would be better for mankind to allow the use of storytelling in the age of science/reason. But Swift is saying that this is too sweet, and to have a utopia this good-there must be some bad, bad things going on behind the scenes.


Think of it like make-up, maybe the Houyhnhnms are born with it, maybe it’s Mayebline. All jokes aside Swift states, “The question to be debated was, ‘whether the Yahoos should be exterminated from the face of the earth?’… they were the most restive and indocible, mischievous and malicious; they would privately suck the teats of the Houyhnhnms’ cows, kill and devour their cats, trample down their oats and grass, if they were not continually watched, and commit a thousand other extravagancies” (346). 

This is a not so subtle warning from Swift. In order to create a perfect utopia, they must remove the Yahoos from existence. Not only that, but they also hint at Eugenics by having a standard for their own species. I see parallels to not only Hitler’s regime, but also America’s attempt at Eugenics in the early 20th century. And on top of that, we also have parallels to the witch-trials during the early western world with the description of sucking the teets of cows, killing cats, etc. It sounds eerily similar to things that have yet to come, but it just shows how the literature of power has moved one single idea throughout centuries. 

– Christopher Luong

Empirical Equates to Truth in Absolute, or does it?

Francis Bacon, in “The New Atlantis,” seems to favor tangible evidence over, hypothetical/figurative reasoning.  He seems to be driven towards finding the truth, empirically, and, in that, seeing truth as a treasure.  But in Bacon’s philosophy about finding truth, is really just the self justification for colonialism.

So the question can be asked: What is his truth?

Let us begin with his explicit truths.  Though his work in “The New Atlantis” is of the fictional genre, his personal values are clearly evident in the choice of rhetoric he uses.  We first see his decision to use the voice of some fictional character who is describing what great riches are to be found upon this perfect world.  With this beautiful scenery, he also describes a systematic process being taken place in this perfect world, and how each individual is assigned to certain roles to make said system run smoothly.  In essence, an industry.  One of the most interesting appeals Bacon uses is when he references a biblical name, calling this perfect world, “the House of Solomon.”  This was perhaps done so as to allow the possibility of the Christian community taking Bacon’s notions into consideration.  While Bacon continues to infer that science can be considered a religion, and that God does have a place in the findings of unanswered hypotheses, he still seems to favor the more visual evidence.

The implicit reality is that Bacon’s ultimate purpose was to romanticize the undertaking of searching, occupying, and ultimately colonizing already occupied lands.  In his writings, the language he uses a lot includes the word “we.”  The use of this words implies a ethnocentric perception of himself and the people that fall within the same category as him, other Europeans.  There seems to be signs of that idealism throughout his writing.  For example, he writes, “There we have the statue of Columbus, that discovered the West Indies.”  Bacon describes the statues that they are rising on this land, and in addition to that description, he goes onto describe Columbus as the “inventor” of so many things.  This seems a bit unfair as he is essentially disregard any other form of culture, or inventor, or school of thought.  

In one of Bacon’s other essays, “Of Truth,” he describes how a man of high authority views poetry as “Wine of Devils” because poetry only covers lies, and in some way creates lies out of truth.  In other words, drowns out facts.  Again, this shows that he feels his own truths, and how they are sought out, is the most relevant.  So, what is his truth?  His truth can be found in the maze of rhetoric he creates throughout his writing, that merely serves as a mask to cover the ugliest of truths, colonialism, and ethnocentrism.

Maricela Martinz