This article illuminates the technological underpinnings of Jonathan Swift’s satire, “The Progress of Beauty” (1719), by exploring how eighteenth-century poetics of beauty and scientific progress pit human against automaton. This article ranges from the ego of masculine technological display to women’s self-identification with the automaton to suggest that Swift’s speaker blazons the aging prostitute’s body with the hope that it might resurrect a lost ideal, the beautiful watch face. Instead, readers are confronted with the vision of Celia who, with her chipped paint, greasy joints, and faulty mechanisms, reminds them that humanity continues to break through its enamel. When readers commiserate with the speaker’s final desire for “new Nymphs with each new Moon,” Swift catches them in an affective trap that ridicules their ill-fated attempts to escape their own mortality.
object studies, automaton, cosmetics, blazon, modernism, Jonathan Swift, eighteenth century, poetry, women, gender studies, astronomy, watch, technology, microscope, telescope, prostitution
"Wishing for the Watch Face in Jonathan Swift’s “The Progress of Beauty”,"
ABO: Interactive Journal for Women in the Arts, 1640-1830: Vol.8: Iss.1, Article 1.
Available at: https://scholarcommons.usf.edu/abo/vol8/iss1/1