Gulliver's giant feet walking in the diminuative forest of the lilliputians

Gulliver's Travels

by Jonathan Swift

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How do Lemuel Gulliver's travels permeate all the facets of neoclassical life?

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Lemuel Gulliver's travels permeate all faces of neoclassicism in that many neoclassical elements are represented and satirized throughout the novel.

One such element was a growing belief that science could solve all problems. As a clergyman, Jonathan Swift was naturally skeptical of such a bold claim, and he satirizes it mercilessly in the episode where Gulliver ends up on the flying island of Laputa, where scientists are completely obsessed with the latest technology to the detriment of all else.

Swift also critiques the neoclassical devotion to science in the episode on Lagado, where society is run by technocrats who come up with all kinds of grand schemes on the basis of scientific rationality, a key element of neoclassicism. There's just one problem: none of these projects ever get off the ground. In the meantime, the country goes to wrack and ruin. The people are without clothes and food, and their houses lie in ruins.

Swift's customary obsession with ordure is much in evidence in his description of the work of the Grand Academy of Lagado, where scientists work to try and turn excrement into food. Here, Swift is satirizing the Royal Society, the United Kingdom's learned academy of sciences.

Although growing numbers of people in the neoclassical age understood the importance of scientific developments, Swift, both as a clergyman and as a pessimist concerning the improvement of human nature, remained somewhat skeptical of the value of scientific experiment.

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