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Thesis defences

PhD Oral Exam - Dónal Gill, Political Science

The Politics of Travel in Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

Monday, August 24, 2020 (all day)

This event is free


School of Graduate Studies


Daniela Ferrer



When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.

Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.


When, in Book II, Chapter VII, the King of Brobdingnag says to Gulliver “As for yourself (…) who have spent the greatest part of your life travelling; I am well disposed to hope you may hitherto have escaped many vices of your country” (Book II, Ch. VII: 121), he raises an important question - that of the value of travel as a means to correct the individualThe primary original contribution of this dissertation is to take Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (1726) seriously as a work of political theory, specifically on the question of the value of travel as a means of individual edification. This dissertation extracts from the text a political argument concerning the pitfalls of the assumption that travel is of benefit to individuals in all circumstances. In doing so, it places Swift in dialogue with Locke, Shaftesbury, the proponents of the Baconian scientific project, and Montaigne, as well as extracting an overarching criticism of liberal and enlightenment values through the critique of travel. Through a close reading of Gulliver’s Travels, alongside key political and religious contextual analysis, the dissertation assesses the text’s treatment of the relationship between travel, education, science, and politics.. This dissertation extracts from Swift’s text an argument that travel can only be edifying if pursued in a disciplined manner as part of an organic hierarchical society, opening up a wider criticism of liberalism.

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