In Norman O. Brown’s Essay regarding Swift’s obsession with the anal function, I find some theories agreeable and others not. What I found most fascinating were the parallels between the history of Swift’s literary criticism and the history of psychoanalytic theory.
Brown discusses Huxley’s “Excremental vision” claim as being as much as an unreliable theory as old-fashioned Freudian psychoanalysis, but when comparing the theory to psychoanalysis considered in a different perspective it brings out what I believe to be the purpose of Swift’s focus on anal obsession.
At first Brown describes Murray and Huxley’s criticism to be on target with that of psychoanalysts’. The claim is that Swift is using his “excremental vision” to emphasize his misanthropy in a crude and violent manner, which suggests his insanity. This is agreed upon by psychoanalysts who see his focus as a way to repress or mask possible trauma in his past regarding sexual tension or psychosexual infantilism. The psychoanalysts say that this type of trauma would likely result in long-term neurosis, basically saying Swift was indeed insane.
Once Brown offers to consider the application of psychoanalysis in a different perspective it becomes more likely that Swift was not insane, and the previous claims of his neurosis are turned against us.
My interpretation of the problem Brown sees is that the critics/psychoanalysts criticism is condemning traits of common humanity, which is an act of repression on behalf of the critic. The way the literary criticism and psychoanalysis correlate completely changes and puts the spotlight on the reader instead of Swift. I prefer to believe that this was part of Swifts goal, rather than thinking he was simply insane. He is making a contradictory illusion in the mind of the reader- For example, in The Lady’s Dressing Room he puts us in a position where we envision a beautiful woman following nature’s call which makes us uncomfortable and grossed out.