There can be only one


It’s official: The most Enlightenment-y text we read this fall is Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, which not only illuminated Enlightenment ideas about politics, human societies, and the importance of the individual AND represents the high point of Enlightenment satire, it’s also a new genre — the novel! — in a time when literature was a giant, bubbling cauldron of generic invention. (Swift came close to beating himself with the biting satire “A Modest Proposal,” which came in at #2 (and is instantly recognizable as a source for modern satires like Last Week Tonight and The Onion), followed by Robinson Crusoe, which launched a thousand adventure novels and Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language, which is just an overall impressive achievement (and delightfully funny for a dictionary).