An-Najah University Journal for Research - B (Humanities)


This article examines how the Enlightenment writers Jonathan Swift and Voltaire’s attitudes and works resonate with our modern writers’ concepts on the role of the humanist intellectual. Informed by Edward Said’s recent theoretical concepts on the humanist intellectual, the article compares the way the two writers use the power of satire to achieve a humanist end that focuses on the pitfalls of identitarian thinking which often leads to national or religious fanaticism. There is certainly a need for Swift and Voltaire to be repositioned in relation with the broad contours of modern writers’ notions of the intellectual. By reading the two writers contrapuntally, this article shows that Swift’s criticism functions in a humanist and oppositional way to all forms of hegemonic and national entities, while Voltaire’s criticism may be described as functioning in a semi-humanist way as its ultimate aim is to consolidate European prejudices. This is achieved by examining Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726) and ‘A Modest Proposal’ (1729), as well as Voltaire’s Zadig (1748) and Candide (1759). The method followed in this study can be described as descriptive and analytical using the aforementioned titles as primary sources and the critical literature produced on them as secondary.