Jonathan Swift: A Tale of a Tub

(4214 words)
  • Liam Lenihan (University College Cork)

Jonathan Swift’s A Tale of a Tub is an exuberant satire on modern reading and writing, an allegory about political and religious fanaticism, and a witty play on classical and Renaissance sources, notably Irenaeus’ Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies c. 180) and Erasmus’ In Praise of Folly (1509). Irenaeus was an early Christian bishop who challenged the mysticism of the Gnostics who willfully perverted the canonical texts of the faith, notably the Old and New Testament.

Using the persona of an unnamed Grub Street hack, Swift narrates a tale but continually interrupts it with digressions about the mechanics of the story itself. The main subject of the work appears to be an …

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Lenihan, Liam. "A Tale of a Tub". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 20 September 2010
[, accessed 01 December 2015.]