Johnson and Time

Philip Smallwood

in Samuel Johnson

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199654345
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745003 | DOI:
Johnson and Time

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This chapter explores Johnson's complex, moving, and often grief-inducing relationship to the concept and passage of time. How time is connected to mind is a constant source of imagery and analogy in Johnson's writings, and his comments on all manner of things, persons, and poets are haunted by a sense of the temporal. As illustrated by reference, variously, to Kant, Heidegger, and Bergson, the chapter suggests that Johnson's philosophical grasp of the problem of time is more telling than has generally been recognized. It is, however, essentially as a critic and as an artist that Johnson apprehends time and communicates its perpetual elusiveness and difficulty of definition. By this means he repairs the experience of time that philosophy dissects; it is the durable power of Shakespearean drama that in particular suggests to Johnson the time-compressing experience of literary pleasure when placed against the tediousness that could weigh down life and poetry alike.

Keywords: Samuel Johnson; time; philosophy; mind; flux; death; poetry; Shakespeare; unity; space

Chapter.  5916 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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