presented by

WHEN: Wednesday 17 May, 3.00-4.30 p.m.
WHERE: Room S226, John Woolley Building (A20), Manning Road, University of Sydney

WHO: All welcome! Refreshments available! For catering purposes, please let Jessica Milner Davis or Peter Kirkpatrick know if you plan to come: and

TITLE: “Gulliver and Satirical Catharsis”
ABSTRACT: ‘But, by what I have gathered from your own Relation, and the answers I have with much Pains wrung and extorted from you; I cannot but conclude the Bulk of your Natives to be the most pernicious Race of little odious Vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the Surface of the Earth.’ (Gulliver’s Travels, II, vi.)

Why is the King of Brobdingnag’s sentence so enduringly exhilarating? On propositional content it should be merely demoralising, but that has never been its emotional effect in my personal or teaching experience. It (and other similar moments in Gulliver’s Travels) enact some sort of satirical catharsis, mobilising in readers emotions like those defined by modern neuropsychology as the CAD (contempt, anger, disgust) triad of negative emotions. The application of ideas from experimental psychology to eighteenth-century literature clearly runs the risk of being reductive. If, however, they are deployed with due sensitivity to historical context (especially contemporary conceptions of the passions) they can be used to inform a new and significant account of the cathartic power of Swift’s best known work. This paper will read for satirical catharsis in some signal passages of Books Two and Four of Gulliver’s Travels, in the light of a dialogue between early modern passions and late modern emotions. It extends work commenced in an earlier account of Swift’s saeva indignatio, the epitaph, and ‘A Beautiful Young Nymph’.


The 24th Conference of the Australasian Humour Studies Network (AHSN)
hosted by the Centre for Tourism and Regional Opportunities, Central Queensland University, Cairns Campus, will take place on

2-4 FEBRUARY 2018

The 24th AHSN Conference will be held in beautiful downtown Cairns at CQUniversity’s Centre for Tourism and Regional Opportunities from mid-afternoon of Friday 2 February to evening of Sunday 4 February 2018. Its theme will be “Humour: How Does it Travel?”

The Call for Papers will be announced soon with details of the theme and the submission process. Information about travel and accommodation options in the relaxed environs of balmy downtown Cairns, as well as registration and post-graduate scholarships, will also be posted here as soon as available.

Organizing Committee
Dr Anja Pabel, CQUniversity Australia
Dr Jessica Milner Davis, University of Sydney
Dr Bruce Findlay, Swinburne University of Technology

Enquiries: Submission of proposals and speakers, contact Dr Bruce Findlay, E:
General Enquires: Contact Dr Anja Pabel, E: