Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift - LSC-Kingwood

 Gulliver in Lilliput. Retold by Margaret Hodges from Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, illustrated by Kimberly Bulcken Root.


Jonathan Swift, 1667-1745

Published Gulliver's Travels - 1726

"Alternately considered an attack on humanity or a clear-eyed assessment of human strength and weaknesses, the novel is a complex study of human nature and of the moral, philosophical, and scientific thought of Swift's time which has resisted any single definition of meaning for nearly three centuries."

(from "Jonathan Swift: Gulliver's Travels." Literature Criticism from 1400 to 1800.  Ed. Jelena O. Krstovic. Vol. 42. Detroit: Gale, 1998. 290.)

Jonathan Swift wrote Gulliver's Travels in the 1720s when much of the world was not yet discovered. The novel takes place from 1699 to 1715. Gulliver, a surgeon, narrates his voyages to foreign lands and calls them "Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World In Four Lemuel Gulliver."  The novel is known as a classic children's story. It was originally received by audiences as merely an exciting adventure. People of this era enjoyed reading literature about travel into unknown lands.

On another level, the novel is known as a political satire. Different interpretations have occurred over the years as people discovered analogies between the historical and political events of the eighteenth century and the events in Gulliver's Travels. The novel was censored at times in the 1800s. Critics over the centuries have differed on whether Swift reflected his own views on subjects such as politics and religion or whether these are only the views of his fictitious character Gulliver.

Librarian talk . . . About Getting Started!

As you begin, narrow your topic to a size that you can manage. Consider keywords that will help you find the information you need. These can be names of people, literary works, events, or broader identifying terms. Use these keywords for locating information in the library catalogresearch databases, and on the internet.

More about Choosing Keywords (30 sec.)

Topics to Consider

  • utopia / the perfect or ideal society
  • political satire or religious satire
  • culture / traditions 
  • society and class
  • science and technology
  • morality and ethics
  • gender
  • the individual versus society
  • might versus right
  • limits of human understanding
  • comparison of the ideals / beliefs of Gulliver and Swift

Suggested keywords: Gulliver's Travels, Gulliver, Swift, criticism, satire, politics, religion, travel...think of other keywords related to your theme and combine them to narrow your search.

image of original book, Gulliver's TravelsBooks
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Reference Books

REF CB411.S8 - Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture
There are essays about Swift in volumes 12 & 21.
REF PN86.L53 - Literature Criticism from 1400 to 1800, Volumes 1 & 42
A multi-volume set containing excerpts from scholarly literary criticisms.
REF PN523.W67 - World Literature Criticism, Volume 6
A multi-volume set containing information on authors and their literary works with critical excerpts.
REF PN3385.N68 - Novels for Students, Volume 6
A multi-volume set of general information on novels, containing information such as author biography, characters, themes, author's style, and the time period.
Author Biographical Books
REF PR85.B688 - British Writers, Retrospective Supplement I
REF PN41.D5 - Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 101

Journal Articles
Librarian Talk . . . About Finding Journal and Newspaper Articles!

Electronic databases are purchased by the libraries for your research use. To find articles in newspapers and journals, letters, reference books, illustrations, photographs and more, use your updated library card to login to the following databases. If you find an interesting article that is not full-text, you can request the article online. Or, one of our Reference Librarians can help you get the article. They will need full bibliographic information, your name and address, and your library card/ID barcode number. Send your phone number as well, so they can contact you if they need to. There is a time delay when acquiring articles from outside our system. There is some overlap of articles in the following databases. However, we encourage you to use more than one. All are excellent sources for this topic.   

HINT: For a full list of article databases, go to electronic databases and use the barcode number from your Lone Star College ID or library card to login (if not on campus).
More about searching databases (25 sec.)
Bloom's Literary Reference Online
         This database is a collection of many analytical essays discussing literature.  These essays, originally published in print form, are accessible now for research online. Find information about Gulliver's Travels, or read about Jonathan Swift's life and entire body of   
Literature Resource Center
Full-text articles from reference books and Twayne's Masterworks books.  Also, journal articles, some full text and some excerpted.  Click on "Works Search" and enter Gullliver's Travels. You will find overviews and other articles that are not critical essays.  Ask for help if you can't decide which resources are suitable. 
Academic Search Complete
A multi-subject database, with many full-text articles.  Be sure to check the boxes marked  "Full Text" and "Scholarly (peer-reviewed) Journals" in order to retrieve the appropriate level of journal article for your research.  Suggested search terms:  Swift AND Gulliver's Travels entered in this way.  Many of the articles found in this database may also be in Project Muse and/or JSTOR.
Biography Reference Bank
Information about the author and other famous people who may be represented in Gulliver's Travels.
JSTOR Arts & Sciences
Use the Advanced Search page for the best results.  Enter a keyword or keyword phrase in separate search boxes to locate articles containing those words.  For best results, put the full title in quotes.  Because this database is entirely scholarly, all articles are of the appropriate academic level. 
Project MUSE
The best results will be found using the Advanced Search page.  To use the title in the search, put it in quotes in one search box, and type the author's name in a second box.  You may want to add keywords from your thesis in a third and fourth box (click on "Add a Row"). Remember, the more terms you add, the fewer results you will obtain. This database is also entirely scholarly, so all articles will be of the appropriate academic level for your research.  

"Jonathan Swift: Theme of Disappointment," a Films on Demand segment (2 min.& 25 sec.) from the documentary film, Jonathan Swift: the Troubled Dean, produced by Films for the Humanities & Sciences. "Disappointment is a theme running through Swift's life. In Gulliver's Travels, he forces the reader to turn from misery and disappointment and turn to something positive."

Gulliver's Travels & Jonathan Swift on the Internet

Librarian Talk . . . About the Internet!

The Internet will be a wonderful source of original documents. Browse the sites we have suggested below. Remember, you do want to find reputable sites. Look at:

  1. Accuracy - The information should be researched and show proof that it has been.
  2. Source - Who wrote the information? Look at the domain.  .edu .gov. org .net are usually valid research sources.
  3. Authority - What are the author's credentials?  (Don't quote from another college freshman's paper.)
  4. Coverage - Does the page have the information you need for your research?
  5. Objectivity - If a work is biased, use it - just make sure your professor knows YOU know. And offer both sides of issues, where applicable.
More about finding internet sources (25 sec.)
Complete the Evaluating Information Checklist if you're not sure you have a reliable or credible source.

The following sites have been reviewed by librarians at the college:

The Victorian Web – from the National University of Singapore. Includes author Jonathan Swift (although he wrote before the Victorian era) – information on his biography, works, political and social history, attitudes about science and religious beliefs.

Study Guide by former English teacher Michael J. Cummings with tutorials, plot summaries, themes, imagery, analysis, and background information.

Read the book online. Free electronic texts of Gulliver’s Travels:

from Project Guttenberg

from Pennsylvania State University

from the University of Virginia

About the Eighteenth Century

English peasants in the 18th centuryThe 18th century had many significant political and religious conflicts, such as the Tories vs. the Whigs (political parties), Catholics vs. Protestants, war between England and Ireland and a simultaneous war between England and France, and controversy over the ruling of Ireland. Swift was born in Ireland in 1667, but spent many of his adult years in England. He returned to Ireland in his mid-40s, becoming an advocate for the independence of Ireland. Gulliver's Travels was published after Swift's return to Ireland.

An understanding of the time period when Gulliver's Travels was written as well as when it takes place may be helpful in writing your paper. You may want to utilize the following resources to further study 18th century history, politics, and religion.

REF PN50.M625 - World Literature and Its Times, Volume 3
- This multi-volume series gives a broad overview of the novel's plot and political and historical events of the time periods when the novel takes place.


Librarian Talk about getting help!

Support for a successful paper is more than finding the right resources. Putting it all together takes time and effort. Sometimes it takes additional help from the librarians or tutors. Please consider the following resources if you need additional help. Remember, the expert on the assignment is your professor, who can be contacted through your LSC Online in-class email.

More about getting help (25 sec.)

Citing Sources Using MLA Style | Lone Star College-Kingwood Library guide. Examples of both paper and electronic citations.

Avoiding Plagiarism  |   Excellent information and guide on how to avoid plagiarism from the Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University.

University of Texas Copyright Crash Course | This helpful guide on copyright is suggested by Lone Star College-Kingwood Teaching and Learning Center.

The Learning Center   |   Check the TLC hours for in-house tutoring.

Page by Carolyn Harty, May, 2003. Updated 09/2012, BB.. 

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