Vol. 1: Real, Herman J. and Heinz J. Vienken

Type: Article

Real, Herman J. and Heinz J. Vienken ‘Psychoanalytic Criticism and Swift: the History of a Failure’, Eighteenth-century Ireland/Iris an dá chultúr, Vol. 1 (1986), pp 127-141.

Real and Vienken assess the contributions made to Swift scholarship by psychoanalytical critics of the twentieth-century. Psychoanalytic interpretations of Swift’s so called ‘scatological’ poems and of Gulliver’s Travels are challenged. The authors question the validity of the evidence used by psychoanalytical criticism to condemn Swift as having an obsession with ‘filth’, ‘anality’, and ‘sado-cannibalistic fantasies’. They also challenge popular myths concerning Swift’s marital status, his mental state, and his alleged predilection for scatology. The use of Freud’s ‘Interpretation of Dreams’ as a model for the psychoanalytical study of Swift, and the more recent controversy concerning the compatibility of applying psychoanalysis to literature are both considered. The article accepts the view of Norman O’Brown that scatology need not be the perverse product of a diseased mind but can legitimately function as a means of satirical shock therapy, but categorises the twentieth-century psychoanalytical study of Swift, in general, as a miserable failure.