chapter  3
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Suffocation by Information: Collectivity and the Secretary in Swift s A Tale o f a Tub

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It is no secret that the crowd Jonathan Swift s narrator describes in the intro­ duction to A Tale of a Tub is a metaphor for his community s print culture.1 Kenneth Craven, in the first study to engage thoroughly with the Tale's cri­ tique of rational scientific systems in terms of information multiplicity, notes the narrators anxieties about his eras “enormous outpouring of processed information” (7). Similarly, Marilyn Francus argues that “he is disturbed by the quantity of language, not by its quality,” and Warren Montag agrees that “it is full space not empty space that frightens him” (57, 101).2 While Craven, Francus, and Montag provide valuable insight into the Tale's criti­ cism of multiplicity and scientific empiricism, they may underestimate the significance of the text s consideration of what we today call information, a term that appears at an important moment in the Tale? Moreover, the narra­ tors commentary on the emergence of secretarial authorship has gone largely unnoticed, though Swift may have started the Tale when he served as per­ sonal secretary for Sir William Temple (Ellis 72). The Tale's structure draws the reader into an experiment in literacy reform.