Johnson Personified

Freya Johnston

in Samuel Johnson

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

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Following Bertrand Bronson's lead, ‘Johnson Personified’ seeks to understand how eighteenth-century personification works. It argues that, in Johnson's hands, this trope achieves the unlikely feat of making solemnity both active and compelling. Johnson's powerfully realized personifications allow him to ask, urgently but impersonally, how much of human behavior is under human command, and whether we possess the capacity to shape, change, or escape ourselves. Johnson suggests that reason alone will not confer the ability to govern our selves. That ability has to be developed and exercised through practical, lived experience, not through the intellect alone. Self-control is therefore a property of individual growth and not the result of decision, however informed such decisions might be.

Keywords: Samuel Johnson; personification; vision of Theodore; Johnson's poems; Bertrand Bronson

Chapter.  6307 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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