The Battle of the Books

The Battle of the Books

by Jonathan Swift

Paperback

$7.99
View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Wednesday, December 18

Overview

"The Battle of the Books" is the name of a short satire written by Jonathan Swift and published as part of the prolegomena to his A Tale of a Tub in 1704. It depicts a literal battle between books in the King's Library (housed in St James's Palace at the time of the writing), as ideas and authors struggle for supremacy. Because of the satire, "The Battle of the Books" has become a term for the Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns.

In France at the end of the seventeenth century, a minor furore arose over the question of whether contemporary learning had surpassed what was known by those in Classical Greece and Rome. The "moderns" (epitomised by Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle) took the position that the modern age of science and reason was superior to the superstitious and limited world of Greece and Rome. In his opinion, modern man saw farther than the ancients ever could. The "ancients," for their part, argued that all that is necessary to be known was to be found in Virgil, Cicero, Homer, and especially Aristotle.

This literary contest was re-enacted in miniature in England when Sir William Temple published an answer to Fontenelle entitled Of Ancient and Modern Learning in 1690. His essay introduced two metaphors to the debate that would be reused by later authors. First, he proposed that modern man was just a dwarf standing upon the "shoulders of giants" (that modern man saw farther because he begins with the observations and learning of the ancients). They possessed a clear view of nature, and modern man only reflected/refined their vision. These metaphors, of the dwarf/giant and the reflecting/emanative light, would show up in Swift's satire and others. Temple's essay was answered by Richard Bentley, the classicist and William Wotton, the critic. Temple's friends/clients, sometimes known as the "Christ Church Wits," referring to their association with Christ Church, Oxford and the guidance of Francis Atterbury, then attacked the "moderns" (and Wotton in particular). The debate in England lasted only for a few years.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781989743133
Publisher: Brian Westland
Publication date: 11/01/2019
Pages: 118
Product dimensions: 5.98(w) x 9.02(h) x 0.25(d)

About the Author

Jonathan Swift (1667–1745) was an Anglo-Irish writer of prose, poetry, essays and political pamphlets, and is probably the best-known satirist in the English language. His novel Gulliver's Travels is one of the landmarks of world literature.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

The Battle Of The Books 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dumb book