Johnson: Sanity and Syntax

Philip Davis

in Samuel Johnson

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

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This is a chapter on balance, both rhetorical and mental, within Johnson's sentence-making. It argues against Hazlitt's criticism that Johnson's symmetrical style is too often merely mechanical. Instead, it seeks to show how Johnson's writing works at the level of branching clauses within complex sentences in order to locate itself in the midst of the inferred structures of existence. This syntax is an achievement of sanity not only by means of such adaptation but also through including within it room for all that is opposed to or divergent from a more simple integration. There is at the heart of Johnson a terrible sense of the final failure of knowledge in providing remedy or solution: what Johnson's syntax does in the meantime is create and demarcate the space within life can carry on.

Keywords: balance; syntax; sanity; shape; middle; sentence; hope and fear; Samuel Johnson; prose style; rambler; psychology of grammar; William Hazlitt

Chapter.  6168 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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