the triumph of the therapeutic

#60- The Master of Satire: Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal


This week, Scott and Karl read A Modest Proposal, a satirical essay written and published anonymously by Jonathan Swift in 1729.

Are human lives the sort of things you should add up like numbers? Despite suggesting that the impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling their children as food to rich gentlemen and ladies, Swift actually thinks you should treat people like humans.

Needless to say, Swift’s essay is widely held to be one of the greatest examples of sustained irony in the history of the English language.

Tune in and hear insights into public policy, rhetoric, and Swift’s savage commentary on England’s legal and economic exploitation of Ireland.

A special thanks to Brett Veinotte of the School Sucks podcast for helping to make this show possible. Scott is a presenter in Brett Veinotte’s virtual summit on how to better organize your thoughts, effectively synthesize information, and become more persuasive.

Learn more about all the presenters and topics at You can save 30% and help Online Great Books by using the coupon code HAMBRICK at checkout.


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Swift is remembered for works such as A Tale of a Tub (1704), An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity (1712), Gulliver’s Travels (1726), and A Modest Proposal (1729). He is regarded by the Encyclopædia Britannica as the foremost prose satirist in the English language,[1] and is less well known for his poetry. He originally published all of his works under pseudonyms – such as Lemuel Gulliver, Isaac Bickerstaff, M. B. Drapier – or anonymously. He was a master of two styles of satire, the Horatian and Juvenalian styles.

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