Jonathan Swift in the Company of Women

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9780195188660: Jonathan Swift in the Company of Women

Jonathan Swift was the subject of gossip and criticism in his own time concerning his relations with women and his representations of them in his writings. For over twenty years he regarded Esther Johnson, "Stella," as "his most valuable friend," yet he is reputed never to have seen her alone. From his time to our own there has been speculation that the two were secretly married--since their relationship seemed so inexplicable then and now. For thirteen of the years that Swift seemed committed to Stella as the acknowledged woman in his life, he maintained a clandestine--but apparently also nonsexual--relationship with another woman, Esther Van Homrigh, or "Vanessa." Jonathan Swift in the Company of Women looks again at these much-examined relationships and at others that reveal Swift as a man who enjoyed the company of a number of women as pupils and as ministrants to his various needs.

Swift, a man with a complex private life, was also a writer whose satiric portraits of women could be unsparing. While Swift often criticized women for frivolous pastimes and idle chatter, his most notorious texts on women image their bodies as loathsome: as he once wrote in a serious political tract, a woman is a "nauseous, unwholesome carcass." Such representations cross a line by showing a repugnance for women as a sex, the biological other. They have led, not surprisingly, to repeated charges of misogyny, an issue that Jonathan Swift in the Company of Women addresses at some length. This first book-length treatment of Swift and women comprehensively examines Swift's attitude toward women in all their manifestations in his work and life: as intimates, acquaintances, protégés, wives, mothers, nurses, disobedient daughters, young women who marry older men, and--finally--as poets and critics.

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About the Author:


Louise Barnett is a professor of English at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick.

Review:


"The most sensible account to date on a topic fascinating since Swift's contemporaries speculated about his relationships with women." --Regina Janes, Skidmore College


"That wit was thought 'an exclusively male habit of mind' is one of those eighteenth-century crimes of which the modern male is rightfully ashamed. louise Barnett argues strongly against it, producing some plucky one-liners.... This is a splendid book."--David Nokes, Times Literary Supplement


"Louise Barnett's Jonathan Swift in the Company of Women should effectively put to rest future spculation about Swift and his women friends as it clarifies a multitude of errors and expectations regarding the Dean's love life. Barnett's chief contributions to Swift studies...are the clarity with which she assesses past attempts at understanding Swift and his women friends; her ease in debunking the over-emphasis modern critics pace on Swift the misogynist; and the new sharpness she brings through her own analyses of Swift's poetry and prose." --The Eighteenth-Century Intelligencer


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Book Description Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 2006. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****. Building upon recent research on the history of women, Jonathan Swift in the Company of Women examines Swift, both as man and writer, in terms of women: women as intimates, acquaintances, subjects of satire, and those who have written about Swift. It considers women as mothers and nurses in Swift s personal life and his fictions, and it explores the issue that has persisted from the eighteenth century into our own time: the subject of misogyny in Swift s writings. Bookseller Inventory # APC9780195188660

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