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Re-writing Gulliver’s Travels: the Demise of a Genre?


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1The imaginary voyage is characterised by a certain ambiguity which originates to a considerable extent in the deliberate blurring of boundaries between reality and fiction. This technique, which can be traced back to Lucian’s True History, is perhaps most clearly reflected in the care and attention which even authors of very obviously fictional texts devote to providing a plausible geographical setting for their invented travels and lands. While the imaginary nature of many works is evident, the opening and closing sequences, describing the outward and return journeys, are almost invariably realistic in nature, and the countries visited by the traveller are usually located on the fringes of the known world. One of the main reasons for this is that the genre usually provides a means of expressing criticism – whether direct or indirect – of real, contemporary society: the imaginary lands and peoples discovered by the narrator function as a mirror, reflecting a frequently discomfiting image of humanity. In order to fulfil this intermediary role, the imaginary society is best situated in a median position, in the hinterland between the known and the unknown, the familiar and the strange. This largely explains why the genre flourished in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, when voyages of discovery were revealing new lands and customs, expanding horizons and also increasing speculation as to the nature of those areas left unknown, areas which furnished authors with ideal locations for their works.

2In the modern context, it might therefore seem impossible to write a new imaginary voyage. In the absence of the requisite geographical uncertainty, there would appear to be no scope for this type of writing, which has arguably been supplanted by science-fiction, a related but nonetheless separate genre. How, then, is one to interpret the relatively recent appearance of sequels to and re-writings of imaginary voyages, most notably of Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver’s Travels? Are they to be considered as the inevitable consequence of the intrinsic nature of writing, of the oft-repeated view that all texts are intertexts and that nothing new can really be written? Are they simply postmodern pastiches, or, in the case of feminist re-writings, the result of a re-appropriation of the canon by those whom it traditionally excluded? Do they confirm the demise of the imaginary voyage, reduced to endless variations on old themes and tales, or can they be seen as exemplars of the genre in their own right, as proof of its perpetuation and ability to adapt to changing literary and cultural contexts? In addressing these questions, I wish to confine myself to the analysis of two modern re-workings of Gulliver’s Travels, published at thirty years’ interval: Matthew Hodgart’s A New Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms, Being the Fifth Part of the Travels into Several Remote Parts of the World. By Lemuel Gulliver (1969) and Alison Fell’s more recent The Mistress of Lilliput (1999).

  • 1  See Pope, “Mary Gulliver to Captain Lemuel Gulliver” (Swift 603).

3While sequels and apocryphal re-writings of Gulliver’s Travels are nothing new – the numerous volumes of Gulliveriana bear witness to the quantity of such texts – a great many of the early examples seem to have been primarily motivated by a desire to cash in on the remarkable commercial success of Swift’s imaginary voyage. The inspiration behind these two modern versions is evidently to be found elsewhere: namely, in the adaptation and updating of one of the most fundamental works of literature. Both texts are simultaneously sequels, picking up the tale where Swift ended it with Gulliver’s return from Houyhnhnmland to England, and re-writings, based on the modification of a key aspect of the original work. Matthew Hodgart’s New Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms resembles its precursor in that it is characterised above all by the satirical portrait it presents of contemporary society. However, the historical context is updated, as the dichotomy between the Houyhnhnms and Yahoos is transposed to represent the conflicts which shook American university campuses in the late 1960’s, at the height of student unrest. Gulliver, unable to bear life in England, returns to Houyhnhnmland, only to find it rocked by the uprising of the Yahoos, who revel in the expression of their basic natural impulses – most memorably through the episode known as the “Great Shit-In” –, refuse to work and demand a role in decision-making. Alison Fell’s work alters the perspective of the narrative, recounting the experiences of Mary Gulliver, who remains a minor, silent figure in the background of Swift’s tale, left alone for increasing periods as a result of her husband’s wanderlust and finally spurned in favour of the horses in the stable. As early as 1727, the hapless figure of abandoned Mrs Gulliver inspired Pope to compose a poem allowing her an opportunity to express her grievances,1 and in Fell’s Mistress of Lilliput, Lemuel’s long-suffering and loyal spouse sets out to track down her fugitive husband on a voyage which comes to resemble a feminist quest for liberation and self-knowledge.

4From a formal perspective, the two texts more or less resemble the standard format of most classic imaginary voyages. Hodgart’s book constitutes a particularly elaborate pastiche. Its cover is modelled on that of the 1735 edition of Gulliver’s Travels, albeit with several alterations and additions, including a copy of the Dean’s signature, apparently scribbled on as an afterthought. The most striking element is the presence of a decidedly modern pink flash sticker bearing the adjective “new.” A convincingly rudimentary map is included with the inside title page, while the typeface, punctuation, syntax and presentation of each chapter – a subheading summarises the content – also contribute to the artifice which consists in disguising the re-writing as an eighteenth-century text. The Introduction is reminiscent of the prefaces found in many examples of the genre, apparently intended to reassure the reader as to the authenticity of the tale by describing the circumstances in which the manuscript was discovered, as well as highlighting the task undertaken by the so-called ‘editor’ in transcribing and preparing the text for publication. As is frequently the case, reference is made to the existence of a further text, in this instance a “separate volume,” containing “incontrovertible evidence concerning the handwriting and other matters” (Hodgart 7) which will prove Swift’s authorship. Where the latter’s preface to Gulliver’s Travels purports to prove Gulliver’s existence, Hodgart’s thus adapts to its particular literary and cultural context, claiming that the text was written by Jonathan Swift. However, in keeping with the codes of the genre, the preface, while apparently testifying to the truth of the account it precedes, subverts that same suggestion and hints at the fictional and allegorical nature of the work: Hodgart, for example, alludes to the fact that he edited the ‘discovered manuscript’ during a semester spent at Cornell University in the spring of 1969, and mentions that he added footnotes “for the identification of accidental resemblances between the figments of Swift’s diseased imagination and certain contemporary events” (8).

5The Mistress of Lilliput is less clearly imitative in presentation although it also contains a map, a dedication written by the narrator, and characteristically eighteenth-century chapter subheadings. The narrative voice, however, differs radically from that typical of imaginary voyages, as the events are recounted not by the traveller, Mary Gulliver, but by her faithful travelling companion, a doll. This rather bizarre circumstance both lessens the immediacy of the account and yet serves as a reminder of the barriers which long prevented women from assuming authorship and taking control of their own autobiographies and destinies. Living in the shadow of her dominant yet absent husband, Mrs Gulliver herself would never dream of penning such a tale, and the doll’s role as silent, frustrated onlooker and passive witness to the travels and experiences of her mistress constantly highlights the silent position of even adventurous women. The narrative structure of the text is also unlike that of traditional imaginary voyages, as Fell interweaves the travel account with a description of the French naturalist Antoine Duchesne’s fictional quest to breed the magnificent Fragaria chiloensis or ‘frutilla’ strawberry, discovered in Brazil by the aptly-named spy, Frézier. Duchesne was responsible for the discovery that strawberry plants can be unisexual as well as bisexual, and in the narrative his efforts to find a partner plant in order to breed the frutilla provide a parallel to Mary Gulliver’s gradual journey towards sexual awareness and freedom, which she eventually finds with the naturalist himself.

6In this regard, it is worth noting that Fell’s version of Gulliver’s Travels builds up to a conclusion which is utterly lacking in the original text, as it is in numerous imaginary voyages. While a certain formal circularity is generally respected, the appearance – however flimsy – of authenticity requiring that the traveller come back to his homeland in order to recount his adventures to his kinsfolk and public, many texts end in abrupt and somewhat inconclusive manner, with the voyager dying or otherwise disappearing almost immediately upon his return, leaving only his manuscript. In Swift’s text, the fate of Gulliver remains rather uncertain: is he mad or just lucidly misanthropic? How does he live out the rest of his days? A sequel, however light-hearted, provides a form of response to these unanswered questions: in the case of TheMistress of Lilliput, the reader not only learns what happened to Gulliver following his difficult return to England, but also follows the adventures of his wife until their happy end. It is, however, important to emphasise that this latter form of positive resolution is reserved exclusively to Mary Gulliver: her husband is last seen serving out a sentence on the hospital island of Ogé, having “one day forgot[ten] himself and mounted a mare” (331). Mary’s quest to be reunited with him ends in failure, as she finds him utterly absorbed in the analysis and study of the patients of Ogé, who suffer from delusions. Lemuel himself is similarly afflicted: already in Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels he believed that his description of Houyhnhnm perfection would “see [..] a full Stop put to all Abuses and Corruptions” (v), whereas in Fell’s text he is convinced that he is the director of the hospital, and fully intends to cure his fellow inmates by the administration of purified water. Hodgart’s work remains even more faithful to the Swiftian model: Lemuel Gulliver, now unable even to stand the company of the horses whose decline he recently witnessed, lives in the stables. He tells us: “I have crept into a Bin, that formerly held Oats, and have pulled the Cover over my Head; and now I sit in the Dark, scribbling, scribbling…” (91) The madness that first resulted from the traveller’s impossible desire to return to Houyhnhnmland and live out his days as a rational horse is here aggravated by his recent discovery that even that idealised land is prey to the follies of mankind.

7In revisiting Swift’s imaginary voyage, Hodgart and Fell send their narrators on a journey which retraces the route originally travelled by Lemuel Gulliver. While this particular form of rewriting is specifically modern, indeed postmodern, in approach, the image of travellers following in one another’s footsteps is a fundamental element of the imaginary voyage tradition. One of the most striking examples of this tendency is perhaps Cyrano de Bergerac’s moon voyage, which reproduces elements taken from the lunar episode of Lucian’s True History and also contains very obvious intertextual references to Francis Godwin’s Man in the Moone. Gulliver’s Travels itself, as well as providing the basic pattern and inspiration for the New Voyage and TheMistress of Lilliput, is very firmly rooted in the genre to which it belongs, as is exemplified by the numerous resemblances between the work and the imaginary voyages of Lucian, Rabelais, Cyrano and Foigny, to quote but a few examples. Where real travellers and explorers often engaged in competitive rivalry, by taking established routes in an effort to disprove or to improve on existing theories and thus impose their own vision of the world, authors of imaginary voyages also frequently retravelled narrative pathways, adapting them to their personal needs and preoccupations. The fictionalised Antoine Duchesne sums up this urge when he declares himself “quite resolved to follow in M. Frézier’s footsteps and procure some breeding-plants of my own from those foreign fields” (68), and the complete title of Fell’s work, The Mistress of Lilliput, or The Pursuit also suggests that Mary Gulliver is not alone in following the man who preceded her: the author is following on the textual heels of Jonathan Swift.

8In the modern literary and cultural context, one consequence of this repetition of a pre-existing textual journey is the critical highlighting of the destructive influence worked by Gulliver upon the societies visited. Swift’s text already contains references to this, as well as an open and damning indictment of expansionist colonial policy, and these elements take on a new significance in the two sequels. Hodgart’s text reveals the extent to which Gulliver, neither Yahoo nor Houyhnhnm, has shattered the categories and conceptions governing and structuring Houyhnhnmland. “The troubles of our Country,” he is told, “[…] began with you” (37). Gulliver’s apparent freedom from “Malice and Untruthfulness,” his amiability and benevolence, have led many Houyhnhnms to doubt whether, as they hitherto believed, all Yahoos are inevitably and wholly evil. Are their vileness and baseness not perhaps the result of the humiliating social status and inhuman slavery to which the Houyhnhnms condemn them? Far from being the incarnation of wickedness and savagery, the Yahoos can be seen as “Victims of […] Society” (46). A liberal education, based on the idea that the Yahoos need not study, but instead must be permitted “to develop all their Capacities without Let or Hindrance” (49) has now replaced the traditional system, and they are encouraged “to Study the Constitution of the Society wherein they live (with a View to altering it)” (48). Furthermore, all Gulliver’s attempts to persuade the young Houyhnhnms that the European model is not to be followed are to no avail, and his descriptions of the horrors, filth, violence and depravation that reign in overcrowded London fall on deaf ears. The horses “think it all exceeding wonderful, especially that part about Prostitution,” and express their desire “to build just such a populous City here” (66). Interested in only one physical activity – “Copulation, h’man, pure Copulation” (62) –, they spend their time smoking cannabis and make regular forays to interrupt the Houyhnhnm assembly with their grunts and showers of excrement. As for the Houyhnhnms, they too have been adversely affected as their previously rational and logical discourse has become scarcely comprehensible, so peppered is it with neologisms. Where Swift’s text questions the validity of social or philosophical models (in particular those inspired by Deistic theories) based upon absolute faith in human reason, Hodgart turns that vision on its head, showing the damage caused by an excessive worship of human nature and instinct. Far from progressing towards a more reasonable mode of life, the Yahoos, as Gulliver himself points out towards the end of his second stay in Houyhnhnmland, are “now well on the Road from Savagery to the Barbarick Condition” (83).

9The consequences of Gulliver’s original voyage are also brought home in TheMistress of Lilliput. Mary’s first port of call is the tiny kingdom where the economic strain of feeding, clothing and otherwise supporting a giant is still felt. The bitter inhabitants give Mrs Gulliver a hostile reception, binding her with ropes as they did her husband. However, the unwitting traveller finds herself in greater danger than he ever was, as the traditional Lilliputian arrows, which merely pricked Gulliver’s skin, have been replaced with more deadly firearms modelled on the latter’s pistol. Lemuel Gulliver’s habit of collecting souvenirs as evidence of his experiences is shown to have similarly devastating consequences as it ultimately leads to the suicide of the unfortunate ewe, Dolly, whose lambs he stole from her, leaving her bereft and insane. Where Swift emphasises the Lilliputians’ interest in the wonders of the watch, Fell reminds her readers more explicitly that the traveller usually has a negative impact upon the society he visits, while the image of the bewildered mother ewe reinforces the critique of male behaviour and to highlight its destructive effect on women. Unlike Gulliver, who seemed rather to revel in his size and put it to dubious advantage by urinating on the burning royal palace, his wife is initially horrified by the catastrophes she might unleash, inundating the town with menstrual blood each month and causing “landslips of sewage” (104). She thus considers herself doubly at fault, “not only culpable by connection, but guilty of gross size itself” (104). In contrast with the consumerist attitude of her husband, Mary’s first reaction is one of deep distress at the damage incurred during and after his visit, and she soon turns to fantasising about how best to use her gigantic proportions to make reparation, by ploughing acres with one stroke of her pocket-comb, sowing entire fields with a mere flick of her wrist, and fuelling windmills with her fan.

10Mary’s dreams of munificence, so very different from Lemuel’s war-mongering, are soon shattered by the Lilliputians’ determination to exploit their enormous visitor in ways more sophisticated than those employed during her husband’s stay. Faced once again with the vexed question of how to maintain a giant without exhausting the country’s resources, the Emperor decides to construct a Popular Pleasure-Palace, with numerous paying stalls and markets helping to refill the national coffers and distract the disgruntled populace. Pride of place is given to Mary. Bathed, massaged and dressed in a diaphanous tunic, she is put on show, rather as Lemuel had been paraded in Brobdingnag, thereby suffering an ignominy which she considers a fitting punishment for what she believes to be her previous transgressions. The desires and appetites awakened in her by her marriage to Gulliver, and which he judged reprehensible and immodest, long ago forced her to abandon her hopes of seducing him with pretty clothes to flatter her body; in her eyes, this public bedecking and exhibition therefore represent a form of penance to be paid for her unladylike interest in sexual pleasure. It is here, however, that Mary’s path begins to diverge most radically from Gulliver’s, as her sensual experiences in the Pleasure-Palace lead her to rediscover the sexuality so long stifled by marriage to a Puritan husband. Spurred on by the challenge of her size and apparent impassivity, the ingenious members of the Queen Bee Club find a way to gratify Mary, and the experience leaves her “restored to herself, knit newly”(162), wondering just what it is she is seeking in pursuing her cold spouse. Although she initially follows his route, her journey leads her not to hatred and disgust of human nature, but to acceptance of her body and to the realisation that the physical aspect of love is more important than the spiritual meeting of minds. Having sailed on the ship Aphrodite, Mary thus finds an answer to her musings on the dual nature of the goddess, and on the respective values of common and celestial love which she epitomises. Rather than wasting time platonically assisting her husband in his dubious research project on delusions among the insane, she chooses Duchesne, a partner physically suited to her and one who, unlike Gulliver, is perfectly at ease with the awareness that what “Nature requires of all of us” is “to mate”(276).

  • 2  The expression is borrowed from Rachel Blau du Plessis.

11Hodgart and Fell thus undertake in their different ways to “write beyond the ending.”2 They draw out Swift’s narrative beyond its original term, and adapt it to their own particular aims. In doing so, they behave in a manner similar to that of many seventeenth- and eighteenth-century authors of imaginary voyages, who use the stable and yet flexible structure of the travel account to express their specific philosophical or scientific theories. The deceptively simple construct, consisting of an outward journey, discovery of another land and return home, thus remains relatively unchanged, although the attitudes of the various authors may range from the deism which informs Veiras’s Histoire des Sévarambes to that fierce opposition to rationalism which characterises Gulliver’s Travels. If we consider literary genres as akin to families, recognisable thanks to a number of shared features, then one trait common to imaginary voyages is surely this recurrence both of the structural framework provided by the voyage itself and of the critical, often subversive ideas expressed within that space. At the same time, however, the genre is also characterised by its intertextual content as most authors borrow ideas and narrative incidents from existing works, thus highlighting the connections which bind them. This feature also lies at the very heart of the two texts which interest us here, since their re-working of Swift’s narrative clearly situates them in this type of relation to Gulliver’s Travels. This view is further confirmed by the presence of numerous elements corresponding to the different types of intertextuality defined by Genette (7-14).

12Matthew Hodgart’s New Voyage contains several direct and acknowledged quotations from Swift’s text, which all refer to traditional Houyhnhnm customs, now lost or rejected by the new generation and through the rebellion of the Yahoos. The extent of degeneration in Houyhnhnm society is illustrated by the fact that whereas the horses previously faced death with composure, taking, at the age of seventy or seventy-five, “a solemn Leave of their Friends, as if they were going to some remote Part of the Country, where they designed to pass the rest of their Lives” (Hodgart 36; Swift 240), Gulliver’s master died in the prime of life, prey to a mental disturbance brought on by his premonition of the fate awaiting his country. Hodgart also plagiarises – to use Genette’s term – Gulliver’s Travels, reproducing sections of text with no indication of their origin. It is significant that one such passage (Hodgart 17), describing a storm in the Bay of Biscay, contains a sentence from the lines which Swift himself famously purloined from Sturmy’s Mariner’s Magazine (Swift 63), thus reinforcing the impression that texts incessantly repeat and imitate one another. Such techniques are also used in TheMistress of Lilliput, where Gulliver’s words to his wife (“Will you force me to consider that by copulating with one member of the Yahoo species, I have become the parent of more?” (44)) reiterate the original text (Swift 253), while Swift’s tirade against colonial practices is inserted into the new narrative (Fell 48; Swift 258). Some uncertainty remains as to the exact nature of these two borrowings as the inverted commas surrounding them seem to result from direct speech rather than from any acknowledgement of a quotation from the original text.

13Fell’s work is equally full of allusions to its model as Mary Gulliver’s adventures provide an often inverted parallel to those of her husband. Whereas Lemuel is presented, somewhat degradingly, as the sexual plaything of the Brobdingnagian maids, his wife derives immense pleasure and benefit from the ministrations of the Queen Bee Club; similarly, the disgusting vision of the female body presented by Swift (one need only remember the grotesque description of a Brobdingnagian breast) is subverted by the celebration of Mrs Gulliver’s flesh. The inmates of the hospital in Ogé provide a clear echo of the episode of the Academy of Lagado, with some specific complaints reminding the reader of the more bizarre experiments carried out by the Professors. The reader of these modern re-writings is thus constantly reminded of the model which they transpose and modify.

14The question nonetheless remains of the nature of these reworked versions of Gulliver’s Travels: are they imaginary voyages in their own right? If we are to consider the New Voyage and TheMistress of Lilliput as literary imitations, in the same way that Joyce’s Ulysses is an imitation of Homer’s epic, we must determine whether Swift’s work is what Genette calls “un modèle de compétence générique,” functioning both on a formal and on a thematic level (12-13). Formally, as we have seen, Hodgart’s text remains extremely faithful to its model and to the genre more generally, whereas Fell’s version deviates from certain elements of the generic norm, while retaining others. There are perhaps two immediately significant alterations which set TheMistress of Lilliput apart from the classical type of the imaginary voyage. The first is the introduction of what might be termed a romantic element: the emphasis is placed less on the description of foreign lands and peoples than on Mary’s personal, symbolic journey towards liberation and what she herself comes to value as “common love.” It could be argued that such an approach reflects the nature of the re-writing itself, which can be seen as a re-appropriation by women both of authorship and of narrative focus, and which therefore exemplifies female preoccupations with personal and internalised events and experiences. However, it cannot be denied that this aspect of Fell’s work gives it a character very different from that of most, if not all, other imaginary voyages. The second important modification is that which consists in the attribution of the narrative voice to the traveller’s doll. This circumstance fundamentally transforms the nature of the text by eliminating the biographical illusion which, however superficial, nonetheless underpins traditional imaginary voyages and contributes to the confusion between fact and fiction so characteristic of the genre.

15While few, if any, of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century imaginary voyages are really intended to be seen as authentic travel accounts, they nonetheless present themselves, to a greater or lesser degree, as such. The reasons for this are complex; it seems at least partly to result from the vogue for travel literature in general, which encouraged authors to take advantage of a captive audience. The opportunities for social, political and religious criticism afforded by the presentation of an imaginary land doubtless contributed greatly to the rise of the genre. It has also been suggested that, in France at least, disguising often daring and polemical writing as a travel account was a method adopted in order to avoid censorship, although this plausible interpretation seems to be undermined by the evidence that even works as openly anti-authoritarian as Veiras’s Deistic Histoire des Sévarambes suffered little in that respect. From a literary perspective, however, it is clear that by pretending to trick their readers as to the true nature of their work, authors of imaginary voyages highlight the uncertainty of distinctions between reality and fiction, underlining as they do so the unstable, potentially deceitful and manipulative character of the written word, and the need for a cautious, independent approach to texts in general. The self-reflective quality which this produces is another recurrent characteristic of the genre, one which raises vital questions about writing and textuality.

16The modern re-writings of Gulliver’s Travels can clearly not be read in the same light as texts written some two or three centuries earlier: what Jauss judiciously describes as the “preconstituted horizon of expectations […] to orient the reader’s […] understanding and to enable a qualifying reception” (Jauss 131) is radically different. This assertion rings particularly true in relation to Swift’s text, the influence of which is so great that no modern reader could possibly fail to make an immediate connection between the imitations and their model. This fact is ironically emphasised by Hodgart himself in his Introduction, since he mentions the numerous allusions and quotations referring to the Fourth Part of Gulliver’s Travels, “as if the educated reader were not entirely familiar with every word of that immortal, if distressing, work” (8). However, while the imitations cannot play on any false impression of authenticity, they are nonetheless based on an artifice no less transparent than that underlying the pseudo-authenticity of Swift’s own imaginary voyage. Both Hodgart and Fell, to differing degrees, disguise their works as eighteenth-century texts while simultaneously acknowledging the obvious truth that such is not the case. The imposture is greater – and thus even more unconvincing – in the case of the New Voyage as it is outwardly presented not only as a sequel to Gulliver’s Travels but also as the work of Jonathan Swift. Utterly implausible as it is, this pretence can perhaps provide a partial response to the question of the generic character of these two literary imitations or rewritings.

17The issues raised by these texts are similar to those addressed by Borges in his famous short story, Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote, which describes Ménard’s project to write Cervantes’ Don Quixote himself. Borges stresses that the chapters composed by Ménard are neither a re-writing nor a transposition: they are not a contemporary Don Quixote, but theDon Quixote, word for word and line for line. While he claims that Ménard’s chapters are richer than the equivalent chapters in Cervantes’ work, despite being identical to them, he nonetheless admits that seventeenth-century Spanish appears archaic and therefore affected in an early twentieth-century text. The result, as one critic has pointed out (Schaeffer 134), is that whereas Cervantes’ Don Quixote is an anti-novel or a parody of a tale of chivalry, Ménard’s is to be read as a historical novel, a psychological novel, a pastiche of the original parody, or indeed perhaps as all three. Inevitable changes in literary and cultural background thus lead to a complete transformation of the horizon of expectations specific to the contemporary reading public, and the reproduction or imitation of an existing text, however faithfully and skilfully accomplished, does not necessarily lead to the recognition by readers of generic commonality between the model and the new text. In other words, modern readers, faced with the New Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms or TheMistress of Lilliput, will inevitably connect them to Swift’s text, and read them in the light of that connection, but will not read them as they would read an eighteenth-century imaginary voyage, and may not even notice specific resemblances between the modern texts and their precursors.

18In considering twentieth-century re-writings of Gulliver’s Travels, and trying to determine their generic status, these conclusions may lead us to two possible interpretations. On the one hand, the works of Hodgart and Fell would seem to be situated in a context which makes it difficult to define them as imaginary voyages. They may certainly be seen as parodies, or pastiches, of imaginary voyages, but their links to the Swiftian model are so very obvious as to prevent the reader from considering them independently of that matrix. The textual and stylistic elements used to create a certain resemblance to eighteenth-century publications merely highlight both their artificiality and the unlikelihood that the reader will be taken in by such techniques. On the other hand, it is notable that some of the very aspects of these works which seem to preclude their inclusion within the genre of the imaginary voyage are also typical of that same genre. As the latter developed, from Lucian’s True History to Gulliver’s Travels and beyond, it was always characterised by its persistent recourse to existing models and by its intertextual links both within and outside generic boundaries; as such, the New Voyage and TheMistress of Lilliput could be seen as exemplary of the genre. Rather than signifying the demise of the imaginary voyage, they perhaps reflect its evolution and adaptation to a new literary context and to changing horizons of reader expectation, in a world where geographic uncertainty and desire for novelty or discovery have given way to an increasing need to revisit past models in an attempt to achieve better vision and understanding of the canons and categories which exercise such enduring influence on readers. If, as is often suggested, the imaginary voyage is first and foremost a literary and textual journey, leading the reader through a universe of books, then works such as those of Matthew Hodgart and Alison Fell are perhaps best viewed not as a dead-end, but as just another stage on that journey.

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Borges, Jorge Luis. “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote”, in Collected Fictions. transl. Andrew Hurley, New York & London: Penguin, 1998, 88-95.

Cyrano de Bergerac, Savinien de. L’Autre Monde (1657-62), in Libertins du XVIIe siècle. Jacques Prévot, ed., Paris: Pléiade, 1998, 901-1098.

du Plessis, Rachel Blau. Writing Beyond the Ending: Narrative Strategies of Twentieth-Century Women Writers. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985.

Fell, Alison. The Mistress of Lilliput or The Pursuit. 1999. London: Anchor, 2000.

Genette, Gérard. Palimpsestes. La littérature au second degré. Paris: Seuil, 1982.

Godwin, Francis. The Man in the Moone, or A discourse of a voyage thither. 1638. Amsterdam: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, 1972.

Hodgart, Matthew. A New Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms, Being the Fifth Part of the Travels Into Several Remote Parts of the World by Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon and then a Captain of Several Ships.  Wherein the Author returns & finds a New State of Liberal Horses and Revolting Yahoos.  From an unpublished Manuscript by Jonathan Swift, D.D.  Edited with Notes, by Matthew Hodgart Esq., MA, Sometime Fellow of Pembroke-hall, Cambridge. London: Duckworth, 1969.

Jauss, Hans Robert. “Theory of Genres and Medieval Literature” (1970), trans. Timothy Bahti, in Modern Genre Theory. David Duff ed. Harlow, Essex: Longman Critical Editions, 2000, 127-147.

Pope, Alexander. “Mary Gulliver to Captain Lemuel Gulliver”. c. 1730 in The Writings of Jonathan Swift, R.A. Greenberg & W.B. Piper, ed. New York & London: Norton, 1973. 603.

Schaeffer, Jean-Marie. Qu’est-ce qu’un genre littéraire ?  Paris: Seuil, 1989.

Swift, Jonathan. “Gulliver’s Travel”. 1726. The Writings of Jonathan Swift, R.A. Greenberg & W.B. Piper, ed. New York & London: Norton, 1973, p.i-260.

Veiras, Denis. L’Histoire des Sévarambes. 1677. A. Rosenberg, ed. Paris: Champion, 2001.

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1  See Pope, “Mary Gulliver to Captain Lemuel Gulliver” (Swift 603).

2  The expression is borrowed from Rachel Blau du Plessis.

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Ruth MENZIES, « Re-writing Gulliver’s Travels: the Demise of a Genre? », E-rea [En ligne], 3.1 | 2005, mis en ligne le 15 juin 2005, consulté le 15 décembre 2017. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/erea.613

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Université de la Réunion
Ruth Menzies est professeur agrégée à l’Université de la Réunion et titulaire d’un doctorat en littérature comparée. Son domaine de recherche est la littérature de voyage anglaise et française des XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles.

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