Science and gulliver travels

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-Science in Book III-


Daniel M. Ambrona Carrasco

“Gulliver’s Travels” is a novel written by Jonathan Swift (Dublin 1667-Dublin 1745), published for the first time in 1726, and it is the best known of his full-length novels. It talks about thestory of Mr. Lemuel Gulliver, an English surgeon who takes to the sea when his business has failed. Then, he runs some adventures arriving at unknown places, sometimes due to his bad luck and sometimes to coincidence, in his travels.
It is divided into books and it serves as a biting satire of human nature and British and European society through its descriptions of imaginary countries.It also could be considered as a parody of the travellers' tales, an important literary sub-genre in the 18th century.
This essay deals with science in the book III of the “Gulliver’s Travels”. First of all and as a kind of introduction we will take a look at the backwards of science and its situation in J. Swift’s time. Then the study will go deeply into its treatment in the novel.As Douglas Lane Party assures in his thesis, the original use of the word science is different from that of today. According to Oxford English Dictionary, the word science comes originally from the latin scientia (= knowledge): “In the Middle Ages, 'seven sciences' was often used synonymously with 'seven liberal arts,' for the group of studies comprised by the Trivium and the Quadrivium.”However, the original meaning which science had, was narrowed and narrowed, and at last its meaning became to refer to just limited technical fields.
In Swift's era it takes place the age of "the revolution of science". There is a change from ancient science to modern science; from the study of the ancient scholars, such as Aristotle and Plato, to the work of the modern scientists, such asDescartes and Newton, due in part to the Enlightenment. But he lived in a time when a great deal of what passed for science was, at best, pseudo-science. Swift clearly criticises the scientific movement of the Enlightenment. He was not generally contrary to science, but was of the opinion that science should serve humanity. He thought that scientific thinking has to be on benefit of mankind. Maybeon one hand he was thinking that it was useless (as it will be seen forward) or on the other hand that it could be put to evil uses as easily as to good, and that could be a problem. In that way, Swift also describes the devastation to mankind that can be caused by scientists who experiment with new methods without foresight to consider the consequences. But, is it to say that Swift was apessimist? As far as we know, until that time, science had done little to improve their lives and some of its endings were quite deadly. On one hand, medicine was useless against disease and doctors were as likely to shorten life as to make it longer. On the other hand, gunpowder was the prime example of Science's accomplishments in Swift's time.
In the novel, the author satirizes on "new science"chiefly in book III, "A Voyage to Laputa". It is a scathing attack upon science in the 16th and 17th centuries and against the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, the leading publication of the scientific community of his days, and consequently to the Royal Society.
In this part captain Gulliver, after his navy has been captured by pirates, is rescued by the inhabitants of abig and strange flying island. It is known as Laputa and it rules the government of the continental country Balnibarbi. These places could be metaphorically understood to be England and Ireland, as Swift knew very well the Spanish language, and several times he had called England as prostitute.
In the island he finds a lot of Scientifics and an important cult to music and over all...
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