Title

What Not to Avoid in Swift’s “The Lady’s Dressing Room”

Abstract

This essay argues for the centrality of the void in making sense of Jonathan Swift’s notoriously filthy poem, “The Lady’s Dressing Room.” Looking at the overlooked void reveals the poem’s engagement with philosophical materialism, in particular Lucretius’s De Rerum Natura. Although critical of seeing the universe and all it contains as mere matter and void, Swift uses Lucretian materialism, this essay contends, to dethrone the classical muse and debunk aesthetic enthusiasm. In observing how the poem stages a clash between materialism and enthusiasm, science and aesthetics, this essay seeks to move beyond debates about the poem’s misogyny. It also proposes viewing the poem’s satirical project as part of Swift’s search for an alternative model of poetic creation to replace the worn-out muse.

Publisher

Johns Hopkins University Press

Publication Date

8-7-2009

Publication Title

Studies in English Literature 1500-1900

Department

English

Document Type

Article

DOI

10.1353/sel.0.0069

Keywords

Swift, Jonathan, 1667-1745: Lady's dressing room, Lucretius Carus, Titus: De rerum natura, Materialism in literature

Language

English

Format

text

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