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Week 13 Notes (finals week!)

by: Shelby Flippen

Week 13 Notes (finals week!) ENGL 221

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Shelby Flippen

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Samuel Johnson's The Preface to Shakespeare
British Literature to 1798
K. Attie
Class Notes
Johnson, Preface, to, Shakespeare
25 ?




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This 2 page Class Notes was uploaded by Shelby Flippen on Tuesday May 10, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to ENGL 221 at Towson University taught by K. Attie in Summer 2015. Since its upload, it has received 16 views. For similar materials see British Literature to 1798 in Foreign Language at Towson University.

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Date Created: 05/10/16
Samuel Johnson 1. Background th  Age of Johnson­ pre­eminent literary critic of the 18  century  Style ­ Balanced: symmetry, parallelism ­ Concise prose: brief sentences ­ Criticism and biographical writing  2. The Preface to Shakespeare  Expresses representative/universal human nature or experience  reader can find  enjoyment through finding self in the work ­ “Nothing can please many, and please long, but just representations of general  nature”  ­ “genuine progeny of common humanity” (2938) ­ “too often an individual: in those of Shakespeare it is commonly a species”  Underestimates the importance of love (2939) ­ “He knew that any other passion, as it was regular or exorbitant, was a cause of  happiness or calamity”   No heroes in his works  ­ “Shakespeare has no heroes” (meaning no superhuman/archetypical heroes, rather than lacking virtue) ­ BUT if the common person is a hero, than everyone is a hero (so no defining  heroes)  Unlike him, Shakespeare has faith in individual thought  No moral purpose (his works entertain but don’t instruct­ countering Horace’s dulce  et utile values of both) ­ “He who thinks reasonably must think morally” and “no just distribution of good  and evil”  a. BUT people aren’t always this way (due to the very human dignity he just  praised…)  ­ Johnson believed that the writer is a public person and thus should write for the  common good. a.  did not believe in a discerning reader  Poor comedic scenes (vulgarity)  ­ He believed that vulgarity should not be expressed in the upper classes (but could  be expressed with the lower class characters)­ 2940.  The 3 unities of the tragic plays ­ Time: in real time (no time lapses) ­ Place: consistency (one setting) ­ Action: serious, complex, of a certain magnitude  ­ BUT he acknowledges the need to deviate from these rules ­ BUT drama does not need to be credible because the audience knows it’s fiction  a.    that’s why people love tragedies that “bring realities to mind”  b.  noble human spirit transcends c.  draws attention to common humanity and suffering


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