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A Raging Wit

The Life and Legacy of Jonathan Swift
  • Conference: Jonathan Swift in the 21st Century
  • Online exhibition
Portrait of Swift

On exhibit February 5, 2018 - May 16, 2018

In honor of the 350th anniversary* of Jonathan Swift's birth, this exhibition, based on the collections of the Penn Libraries, will explore the many facets of Swift's life and legacy through an examination of his many voices; his complicated relationships with both men and women; his ever-evolving politics; his many travels, whether by foot, horse, or ship, or in solely his imagination; and his views on the role of religion in society. It will examine how these influences manifested themselves in his writings and in the world's reaction to his words.

The Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries holds a number of collections relating to Jonathan Swift, including the Teerink Collection (early editions of Swift's works), the Denison Collection (illustrated editions of Gulliver's Travels), and a collection of books known to have been read by Swift or been part of his library. The Swift's Library and Reading Collection, as well as an oil portrait of Swift and various Swift-related manuscripts and publications, including many Dublin imprints, were the gift of the independent Swift scholar Archibald Elias.

*Swift was supposedly born on November 30, 1667. Since the English calendar during Swift's lifetime (and until 1752, when the British government adopted the Gregorian calendar) began on March 25th (the Feast of the Annunciation, also known at Lady Day), the exhibition will open and the conference will take place during the official anniversary "year" of Swift's birth.

Installation views of A Raging Wit

2018 Jay I Kislak Symposium
Conference February 22-24, 2018

Jonathan Swift in the 21st Century

Battle of the books, detail (in a Tale of a Tub)


Jonathan Swift was a traveller, in his imagination as well as in life, regularly making his way, by ship and by foot, back and forth between Ireland and England during major periods of his life. Swift also travelled through genres and voices, among men and women, and between politics and religion. His works have travelled as well, through space and time, in numerous editions, along with translations, responses, adaptations, abridgements, continuations, and illustrated versions.

This conference seeks to reconsider Swift and his works through a contemporary lens, exploring how they have travelled across three centuries and around the world.

  • Schedule

    Thursday, February 22

    5:30pm Exhibition and Conference Opening [VIDEO]

    Will Noel (Penn), Welcome

    Lynne Farrington (Penn), Introduction and Exhibition Overview

    James Woolley (Lafayette), Collecting as Scholarship: The Swift Collections at Penn

    6:30-8pm Opening Reception

    Friday, February 23

    9:30-10am Registration and light breakfast

    10-11:30am Welcome and Panel 1 – Swiftian Experiments [VIDEO]

    Chair: Michael Gamer (Penn)

    Paula McDowell (NYU), From Grammatology to Acoustemology:
    What Can Swift's
    Tale of a Tub Teach Us About Sound and Voice?

    David Alff (SUNY Buffalo), Lagado and the Hyperloop

    11:30-Noon Break (coffee/tea)

    Noon-1pm Engaging with the Collections at Penn

    A Raging Wit exhibition tour and pop-up exhibition in Lea Library relating to symposium talks

    1-2pm Lunch

    2-3pm Panel 2 – Re-mediating Swift [VIDEO]

    Chair: John Pollack (Penn)

    Ruth Menzies (Aix-Marseille Université), A Graphic 21st-Century Gulliver:
    Martin Rowson's Graphic Novel
    Gulliver's Travels (2012)

    Jim Salvucci (Independent Scholar), Troll Level–Expert

    3-3:30pm Break (coffee/tea)

    3:30-4:30pm Panel 3 – Modes of Satire [VIDEO]

    Chair: Alice McGrath (Penn)

    >Barrett Kalter (U Wisconsin-Milwaukee), Swift and the Art of Disgust

    Sharif Youssef (U Toronto), A Fiscal Theory of Satire

    4:30-5:30pm Round-up and concluding remarks [VIDEO]

    Moderator: Suvir Kaul (Penn)

    David LeBlanc (Penn State), Swiftian Experiments

    Kirsten Lee (Penn), Re-mediating Swift

    Kate Thorpe (Princeton), Modes of Satire

    Saturday, February 24

    9:30-10am Registration and light breakfast

    10-11am Panel 4 – Secret Swift [VIDEO]

    Chair: Suvir Kaul (Penn)

    Melinda Rabb (Brown), Swift and Secret History

    Catherine Ingrassia (Virginia Commonwealth), Imaginative Travels with Dublin's "Female Triumfeminate"

    11-11:30 Break (coffee/tea)

    11:30-12:30pm Panel 5 – Printing and Publishing Swift [VIDEO]

    Chair: Daniel Traister (Penn)

    Stephen Karian (U Missouri), Printed but not Published:
    Private Printing in the Early Eighteenth Century

    Ian Gadd (Bath Spa), Editing Swift for the 21st Century

    12:30-1:30pm Lunch

    1:30-2:30pm Panel 6 – Comic Violence [VIDEO]

    Chair: Mitch Fraas (Penn)

    Cecilia Feilla (Marymount Manhattan), Pathognomies of Laughter and National Identity:
    Swift Among the Black Humorists

    Elizabeth Hedrick (U Texas, Austin), Form and Attack: Swift's Use of Cicero in A Modest Proposal

    2:30-3pm Break (coffee/tea)

    3-4pm Panel 7 – Swift: Our Contemporary [VIDEO]

    Chair: Toni Bowers (Penn)

    John Havard (Binghamton), Swift, Sterne, and the Origins of American Politics: or, Scalia's Travels

    Helen Deutsch (UCLA), Problems for the Future:
    Jonathan Swift, Edward Said, and Secular Criticism for the 21st Century

    4:00-5:30pm Round-up and concluding remarks [VIDEO]

    Moderator: Michael Gamer (Penn)

    Mayelin Perez (Penn), Secret Swift

    Cassidy Holohan (Penn), Printing and Publishing Swift

    Liandra Sy (Penn), Comic Violence

    Christopher Chan (Penn), Swift: Our Contemporary