Gulliver’s Travels is regarded as one of the most recognized classics of the English literature by Jonathan Swift. It was chosen as part of the BIBLIODOS project because it is said that the spectrum of the possible audience who can enjoy it starts from toddlers to ‘cabinet members’ as per (Gay, 2019) showing the extent of its magnitude. In addition, its content, exemplifying a traveller’s adventures can easily be identified in our target audience which may include people who love travelling, or even people who had to migrate or travel for other reasons. People with such an aspiration, as Gulliver may be in a position to compare the societies they lived in and maybe the political regimes, even with limited language facilities.
The original book was first published anonymously in 1726 as ‘Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World’. This four-part novel gave birth to the novel as we know it now. The novel is listed as “a satirical masterpiece” by Robert McCrum because it links adventure with savage satire mostly on English customs and politics. The e-book and the pedagogical dossier focus on the first part of the book which is Part 1: ‘A voyage to Lilliput’. The other three parts include Part II: A voyage to Brobdingnag, Part III: A Voyage to Laputa, Balnibarbi, Luggnagg, Glubbdubdrib and Japan and Part IV: A Voyage to the Land of the Houyhnhnms.
Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), sometimes used the pseudonym Isaac Bickerstaff for his satire. Jonathan Swift was an Anglo – Irish cleric, satirist, political pamphleteer, essayist and poet. The Encyclopaedia Britannica regards him as the most important prose satirist in the English language. Before starting to write in prose he wrote six odes with not as much success as his later work. He was born in Dublin, Ireland, his father died before he was born. His child nurse took him to Whitehaven, England, where he learned to read the Bible. He was returned to his mother when he turned three. His mother left him to Godwin Swift’s care, his uncle. He had some literary connections from his grandmothers and Uncle Thomas Swift. He attended Kilkenny College and Dublin University in 1682. At his time, most Irish people were Catholic, without money or social credit and of course with no power in politics. Swift on the other hand, belonged to the minority of Anglo- Irish, who represented the English ruling class (Laura. K, 2018). Swift’s political position is hard to define and analyse in a few short sentences. We can only borrow the words of Higgins, 2012 “Swift struggled to define himself in relation to contemporary party politics without compromising his independence and it has proved notoriously difficult to place Swift on the political spectrum of his time”.
He published his first novels “A Tale of a Tub” and “The Battle of the Books” in 1704. Apart from novels, he published a series of pamphlets such as “Drapier’s Letters” (1724) and “Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift” (1739) criticizing customs, human nature and politics. He won wide recognition in London for his wittiness as a writer and for his intelligence at around 1701-1709 where he also travelled every other year. Nevertheless, the Romantics and Victorians of his time reacted strongly against his work referring to him with the harshest of words and insults. It was not until the 20th century that his work was more accepted by the wider audience and that well known personalities such as T.S Eliot wrote in favour of his work. Nowadays, he gained his position as one of the greatest English authors and by far the greatest satirist in the English Language. It is said that his literary influence on subsequent authors is incalculable (Cody, D. n.a).
Johnathan Swift lived around critical points for historical events. At the time of the author one of the most catalytic revolutions for the world as we know it was taking place right in his front yard. The Glorious Revolution, also called “The Revolution of 1688” and “The Bloodless Revolution”, which took place from 1688 to 1689 in England. King James II was Catholic in a period when Catholics and Protestants had tense relations. He was eventually replaced by his own daughter Mary who was a Protestant. Several leading Englishmen invited William of Orange her husband, to invade England. He landed in November and James II fled the next month. After the assembly of the Convention Parliament in April 1689, William and Mary became joint monarchs of England governing according to the laws of Parliament, not the monarchy’s rules. This planted the seeds of the early stages of political democracy.
At the same time, the Act of Union occurred in 1707. Queen Elizabeth I of England and Ireland died in 1603 and her cousin, James VI of Scotland, inherited the throne. Until 1707 there were two separate crowns, the Kingdom of England and Kingdom of Scotland, resting on the same head. On 1st of May 1707, both political establishments agreed to constitute the Parliament of Great Britain.
Few years later, in 1715, there was an attempted rising by Jacobites against the Hanoverian monarchy. The defeat of the Jacobite army at Culloden on 16th of April 1746, the last battle fought on the British mainland, led to the rolling out of a new British government policy. The War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748) was the Great Power conflict and marked Prussia’s rise as a major power.
The geographical borders of Europe at the author’s time were not as we know them now. The War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714) was an early 18th-century European war, caused by the death in November 1700 of Charles II of Spain. The war was concluded by the treaties of Utrecht (1713) and Rastatt (1714). Therefore, Philip V remained King of Spain but renounced his place in the French line of succession. Relevant conflicts include the 1700-1721 Great Northern War, the Camisard revolt in southern France, Rákóczi’s War of Independence in Hungary.
At this point we would like to mention just one of the discoveries that influenced Swift’s work and more precisely it is to be found in Gulliver’s Travels. This was the Newtonian philosophy after the discovery of Newton, which was thriving in London’s polite society of 1720. This does not mean that Jonathan Swift had an ‘anti-experiment philosophy’ but he was actually criticising the science which did not help to improve people’s lives. That is why you can see the floating island in Laputa, one of the places Gulliver visits, where Laputa floats by magnetic levitation. The people of Laputa have an obsession with accurate measurement but apply them in a way it is not useful. e.g using quadrants in tailoring, resulting in bad fitting clothes.
The literary context
The 18th century, was characterized as the Age of Enlightenment and gradually moved towards Romanticism. During this period, modern novels were considered as a popular literary genre – Daniel Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe” is probably the most known, or as it is said the book more translated after the Bible first published on 25 April 1719. The epistolary novel, the sentimental novel, histories, the gothic novel and the libertine novel were subgenres of the novel which flourished at the time.
The rising of the novel can be seen in the development of philosophical and experimental novels. A good example of experimental novel is “The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman” by Laurence Sterne, with its rejection of continuous narration. Another famous literary genre was the sentimental novel or “novel of sensibility” which celebrates the emotional and intellectual concepts of sentiment, sentimentalism and sensibility. Sentimental novels relied on emotional response both from their readers and characters. Some of the most famous sentimental novels in English are Samuel Richardson’s “Pamela”, Oliver Goldsmith’s “The Vicar of Wakefield” and Laurence Sterne’s “A Sentimental Journey”.
It would be an omission not to mention here that at the end of the seventeenth century a slight rumpus arose between the ‘moderns’ and the ‘ancients’. In this mini war, the moderns took the position that the modern age of science and reason is superior to the superstitious and limited world of Greece and Rome. On the other hand, people voting for ‘ancients’ argued that all that is necessary to be known is to be found in Virgil, Cicero, Homer and especially Aristotle. This literary battle was re-enacted to a smaller extent in England at the time of Jonathan Swift. Although, one would say that Jonathan Swift’s whole career and work shows his resistance to Modernity the book that he devoted to this battle is admittedly characterized one of his most complex works where no obvious position is taken. We are referring to a short satire entitled ‘The Battle of the Books’ where books in a library come alive and try to settle this argument between moderns and ancients but in this book Swift skilfully manages to take no position thus never tells us who wins in the end.
There were two very different extremes in the 18th century England: the rich and the poor. With the Industrial Revolution, which started in the middle of the century, came new machinery that saved time and made some people very wealthy. On the other hand, lots of people who worked in those industries were left without a job.
Owning land was also one of the primary forms of wealth. Political power and influence were in the hands of wealthy landowners. At the top was nobility. Below them were a class of nearly wealthy landowners called the gentry. The middle class consisted of merchants and professional men. Below them were the great mass of the population, artisans and labourers. During that period, probably half the population lived at subsistence or bare survival level.
The Crown depended heavily on Parliament, resulting in a limited monarchy that proved stable and effective. However, ordinary men and women’s political rights were extremely limited since only those with substantial property or wealth were entitled to vote. Although most of the population had no right to vote, the influence of public opinion was strong. They were not afraid to satirize the politicians through pamphlets, books, ballads, and newspapers.
The political opinion was also expressed more directly. The leading political factions, the Whigs and the Tories, were regularly bullied and ridiculed. Rioting and crowd actions were typical. Catholics were attacked and their properties were destroyed after the government’s legislation giving more political rights to them.
Jonathan Swift wrote Gulliver’s Travels in 1725 and it was firstly published anonymously within the next year as ‘Travels into Several Nations of the World’. It was not uncommon for satirists such as himself and his friend Alexander Pope to publish anonymously, often for legal and political reasons. Jonathan wrote this masterpiece during a long-deferred visit to London. It was an immediate success, re-printed several times. His old friends Alexander Pope, John Arbuthnot and John Gray hosted him and helped to publish his book anonymously. It is considered to be one of the most brilliant yet bitter and controversial of his satires written in his maturity. It is said that he started writing it in 1721. It was completed in a period where he was close to the poet Alexander Pope who helped with his connections to London whilst he was also close with the dramatist and poet John Gay. He had been a fellow member of their Scriblerus Club since 1713.
Gulliver’s Travels is a prose satire. The story is also presented as a memoir since Gulliver is finding himself deserted at unknown places.
Satire is a genre of literature and performing arts in which follies, vices, abuses and shortcomings are held up to censure, ideally with the intent of reproaching individuals, corporations, government.
The novel is to a high satire that reflects the political circumstances, human nature and the “travellers’ tales” literary subgenre. It is considered as one of the pioneering novels although it did not have all the rules of the genre as we know it now.
Its European dimension
Upon its first publication in 1726, it was an instant hit with three printings that year. In 1727, it was translated in French, German and Dutch, and pirated copies were printed in Ireland.
Gulliver’s Travels has a series of film adaptations which are based on the first two stories:
- Animated film (1939) produced by the Fleischer brothers
- Partially animated musical version (1977)
- Two – part television movie (1966)
- 3-D film (2010)
An interesting fact is that many terms created by Jonathan Swift have entered many languages such as the term Lilliputian meaning “small and delicate”. In the domain of computer architecture, the terms ‘big-endian’ and ‘little-endian’ are used to describe possible ways of laying out bytes in memory. As also mentioned above, although some spread perceptions where around Swift’s name in his time he is now recognized as the greatest satirist in the English Language, one who influenced numerous other authors worldwide.
Major issues/problems of the time addressed
The major issues of Swift’s time were the financial evolution and its implications for economic and political stability as well as the shift of power from landed to commercial classes (Prendergast, 2014). Gulliver’s Travels reflects Jonathan Swift’s experiences at that time. The author has a satirical view of the European government and the differences during that period. He considers whether men are inherently corrupt or whether they become corrupted. For instance, the episode in which Gulliver douses the Lilliputian palace fire by urinating on it can been seen as a metaphor for the Tories’ illegal peace treaty.
Swift emphasizes bodily functions and excrement by putting Gulliver amongst people of quite different physical capacities than his own. In Lilliput, Gulliver’s gigantic size advantage over the Lilliputians would make it easy for him to conquer them. However, their miniature size yields a much more meaningful and worthwhile experience for Gulliver. Swift was keen on reminding humanity that underneath their conceits to rationality and superiority, they were made of the same skin, blood and bones.
The author does not believe in an ideal state and society because for him it does not exist. Throughout the novel, Gulliver travels from society to society, observing each one’s organization and comparing it with the English government. In most of them, he feels isolated except the Houyhnhnms which is the only society that wishes to belong. Nonetheless, the Houyhnhnms decide that he is not one of them and expel him. Swift examines the conflict between the individual and society, but he does not resolve them in the end.
The gallery of characters
Gulliver: Captain Lemuel Gulliver is the narrator and protagonist of the story.
The emperor: The leader of the Lilliputians. At first, he is friendly toward Gulliver but changes his mind about him when Gulliver refuses to continue fighting Blefuscu.
Lilliputians: The residents of Lilliput. They are about five to six inches tall. They are the sworn enemies of the Blefuscudians of a neighbouring island.
Blefuscudians: The sworn enemies of the Lilliputians, they live on a neighbouring island. Gulliver escapes to their island when the Lilliputians convict him of treason.
In the e-book you can see different places that Gulliver visited e.g:
- Lilliput –island of tiny people, Lilliputians
- Blefuscu – another island of tiny people
- A Temple
- The Sea
- A Port and the Town
Iconography in the book
Some iconographic material was enhanced with paintings illustrating historic elements of the author’s time such as costumes, traveling means, professions and landscapes.
Paul Gavarni is a pseudonym used for Hippolyte-Guillaume-Sulpice Chevalier. He was a painter and lithographer from France whose work is mostly known for its polished wit, cultured observation, and the panorama it presents of the life of his time. Some of his illustrated works were Les Lorettes, Les Actrices, Les Coulisses, Les Fasizionables, Les Gentilshommes bourgeois, Les Artistes, Les Débardeurs, Clichy, Les Étudiants de Paris, Les Baliverneries parisiennes, Les Plaisirs champêtres, Les Bals masqués, Le Carnaval, Les Souvenirs du carnaval, Les Souvenirs du bal Chicard, La Vie des jeunes hommes, and Les Patois de Paris.
Gordon Browne was an English artist and illustrator of children’s books in the late 19th century and early 20th century. His career took off in the late 19th century and he was considered as one of the most prolific illustrators of Great Britain. Some of Browne’s illustrated titles include: Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1885), Hop o’my Thumb (1886), Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1886), Beauty and the Beast (1886), Washington Irving’s Rip van Winkle (1887), Robert Louis Stevenson’s Island Nights’ Entertainments (1893), Fairy Tales from Grimm (1895), E. Nesbit’s The Story of the Treasure Seekers (1899).
William Ladd Taylor was an American illustrator. He studied art in Boston and New York and in Paris under Boulanger and Lefebvre. He began his career making illustrations to accompany poems and stories published in the magazine “The Ladies’ Home Journal”.
Thomas Dalziel was an English engraver famous for his illustrations for the work of Charles Dickens. In 1860, he joined the firm of the Dalziel Brothers and he provided drawings for Barry Cornwall’s Dramatic Scenes (1857), William Cullen Bryant’s Bryant’s Poems (1857), Robert Aris Wilmott’s Poets of the Nineteenth Century (1857), Charles Mackay’s Home Affections (1858) and Lays of the Holy Land (1858).
Georges de Lafage-Laujol was a French painter and lithographer. He studied fine arts in Paris and he took part in the “Prix de Rome”, a French scholarship for arts students, in 1849. Some of his works are: Prairie, Matinée d’automne, Les abords d’une ferme, Bords de la Seine, Fin d’automne, Au printemps.
The reading workshop
PHASE 1: ENTERING THE EBOOK: UNIVERSE, ATMOSPHERE AND HYPOTHESES
Activity: Guest the story!
Entry activity in ebook
- Printed pictures of the ebook
Before the session:
- Choose one or more music tunes related to Gulliver’s Travels to set the atmosphere for the activity (e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qa8VHt1DVA4 ).
- Print images or other resources so you could help the participants guess images that will help participants make assumptions about what they are going to read.
In the workshop:
- Explain to the participants that they will try to guess the story of the ebook.
- Divide the participants into small groups of 4-5 persons.
- After a few minutes, turn the music on and let them listen. What era/ century does it suggest? Is it happy/ sad/ thriving?
It is up to the facilitator how many pictures to use and if only taken from the e-book or from other resources as well. It can also vary from the level of the participants, their background and all of your available resources.
PHASE 2: DIVING INTO THE EBOOK
Activity 1: Let’s travel!
Preparation activity for global understanding
- Printed images of reproductions of old maps of existing or imaginary lands, pictures of ships, portraits of navigators, crews, shipwrecks, discoveries of incredible lands, renunciations with astonishing peoples
- Words labels of key words written in appropriate font and size
In the workshop:
This first activity is proposed before reading.
- Divide the participants into subgroups. Distribute to each sub-group pictures and ask them to name what they see. Give them some time to look at them and make their first assumptions. If necessary, go through the groups to help them find the keywords: a boat, a sailor, a crew, a destination, a departure, a long journey, risks, a storm, a shipwreck …
- For reader groups, give them the word labels of these keywords and ask them to match them with the correct image.
- Finally, invite the large group to present illustrations.
- Ask the participants to read the ebook up to slide 6. For the 1st reading level, it is in fact a reading of images and possible key elements. We will still talk about reading.
- Ask them to find the elements to be associated with the vocabulary discovered or rediscovered.
Activity 2: First reading
Global understanding activity
- Printed images of the ebook (about Gulliver’s life at Lilliput)
- Printed illustrations of Gulliver’s stay at Lilliput from different books
- Blank sheets of paper
- Colour pencils
- Glue or tape
In the workshop:
- Invite the participants to read the ebook up to slide 17. This reading is done, initially, without audio for levels 1 and 2 of reading. Ask them to explain what they understood of this new part of the story.
- Propose them to reread this part (accompanied by one or two listening for reading levels 1 and 2) in order to observe what happened to Gulliver, and them imagine, in subgroups what Gulliver’s life must have been like.
- After their discussions, ask them to make a poster in group presenting life at Lilliput. Depending on their skills, it can be pictures, drawings, words.
- Stick the posters on the wall/ room space dedicated to the Gulliver’s Travels e-book. Invite them to observe the creations, and to discuss.
- Finally, the facilitator could present other illustrations of Gulliver’s stay at Lilliput to compare with what was found, add adventure and make people discover and understand satirical elements of the work that will be useful for further reflection.
Activity 3: Storyline
Refine comprehension activity
- Printed illustrations of the most critical moments in the ebook from slide 18 to the end
- Printed words/quotes from the ebook from this part
In the workshop:
- Open the activity on a brain storming activity: Gulliver has his place among the Lilliputians, he even saved them during the war. What is he going to do now? Stay in exile? Go back? What can happen?
- Form several subgroups. Give them the printed images and the associated words/quotes (depending on the level of reading). Give them some time to observe the illustrations and the quotes and ask them to put the illustrations in the correct order.
- Tell them to read the quotes/words and match them with an image.
- Ask each group to present how they have arranged the images and the words/quotes.
- While they show their work, note the name of their group on the blackboard and write down a few keywords according to how they arrange the order of the images
- Once all groups have finished their presentations, invite them to negotiate on what could be the correct order. Don’t give them the answer yet. They have to reread the story.
- Then, ask the participants to read the e-book from slide 18 to the end, individually or with partners (accompanied by one or two listenings for reading levels 1 and 2).
- Compare the story with what was imagined by the subgroups and then discuss the ending.
To go further with linguistic
Work with the students on the lexical fields of certain words associated with Gulliver’s Travels: find the lexical fields, the words, classify these words by class, increase the lexical fields.
Activity 4: My travel
Refine comprehension activity
- Blackboard and chalks (or whiteboard and markers)
- A3 Blank sheets of paper
- Colour pencils
- Glue or tape
- Magazines and newspaper
In the workshop:
- Write the word “travel” on the board.
- Ask the participants to make some sentences using the word “travel”. Make sure all participants said at least something.
- Ask them why it can be important, necessary, pleasant to travel, and invite them to talk about their favourite trip/ adventure or what would be their favourite trip/ adventure. Display a map of the world to indicate the countries and regions mentioned by the participants. Help small communicators to explain themselves.
- Finish the activity by asking them their dream trip and why. Bring magazines and newspapers. People who can’t write will be able to make a collage and, if they wish, add drawings and keywords. People who are more comfortable with writing will be able to write a story describing why they want to go.
Finally ask them if they would they like to stay there forever.
PHASE 3: THE CREATIVE STAGE
Activity to enhance the reading experience
- Costume elements
- Decorative elements
- Caricatures or mini dolls of the size of the Lilliputians
- A3 blank sheet of paper
- A4 blank sheets of paper
- A professional camera or camera application of any device e.g. mobile phone
In the workshop:
- Explain to participants that they are going to play Gulliver’s stay at Lilliput.
- Discuss the story and ask them to divide in groups of 4-5.
- Each group will distribute the roles among them and prepare the props for their performance. Tell them that they can make some adaptations to change the story and surprise the audience. Proposals can be given to the participants: voice-overs or dialogues, for example.
- Accompany the participants in the realization of their script. They can draw it like a storyboard.
- Allow plenty of time for storage and repetition. Help participants to rhythm and pronounce their texts.
- Launch the play. Take pictures, they can be pasted on the wall.on the wall/ room space dedicated to Gulliver’s Travels e-book.