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Introduction: Contemporary Johnson

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2022

Greg Clingham
Affiliation:
Bucknell University, Pennsylvania
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Summary

Johnson continues to offer fresh challenges and pleasures to both new and seasoned readers. This introduction sketches in some essential characteristics of Johnson as a companion, and as a critical thinker whose contemplation of time, human limitations, suffering, and the formative powers of language make him unusually contemporary – in short, a writer for life amidst a global pandemic. Drawing on his poetics of memory in Rambler 41, his remarks on Shakespeare’s King Lear, Pope’s last days, the folly of the heroic, Soame Jenyns’s metaphysics, and human failure in Rasselas, Greg Clingham suggests how Johnson engages with questions of self-knowledge, social justice (e.g., the education of women, the treatment of animals, capital punishment), and some of the political issues of the day (e.g., slavery and colonialism). In conclusion, the introduction describes the principles governing the chapters in this book, which honor the centripetal, seamless, and flexible manner of Johnson’s thinking and writing.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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