Vol. 4: Barnett, Louise K.

Type: Article

Barnett, Louise K. ‘Swift and Religion: Notes Towards a Psychoanalytic Interpretation’, Eighteenth-century Ireland/Iris an dá chultúr, Vol. 4 (1989), pp 31-40.

The charge that he was “not entirely religious” followed Swift throughout his lifetime, and persists to the present. According to Barnett, “Being a priest was Swift’s job, not his chief enthusiasm”; in contrast to his satirical writings, his religious pronouncements were ‘unmemorable’ and ‘uninspired’. The author applies psychoanalytic theories of religion to argue that Swift’s parental deprivation (Swift never knew his father) and sense of insecurity as a child caused him to create an unusual ‘God image’ of an impersonal and formal nature. The article considers Freudian theories of religion and the God/father/son relationship and suggests that they can be useful in understanding Swift’s general sense of pessimism.