ENGL 321
Samuel Johnson and the Literary Tradition Spring 2015
Division I
This is not the current course catalog

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Johnson has been exceptionally influential not only because he was a distinguished writer of poems, essays, criticism, and biographies, but also because he was the first true historian of English literature, the first who sought to define its “tradition.” We will read Johnson’s own works and Boswell’s Life of Johnson to discover Johnson’s talents, tastes, and standards as an artist, as a moral and literary critic, and as a man. We next will use Johnson’s Preface to Shakespeare and Lives of the Poets to examine how this great intelligence assessed writers from the Renaissance through the eighteenth century. While reading his commentary on Shakespeare and his critical biographies of Milton, Dryden, Pope, Swift, and Gray, we will analyze selected works by these writers so as to evaluate Johnson’s views and to sharpen our understanding of the relationships between his standards and our own.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 25
Expected: 20
Class#: 3632
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: midterm and final papers, and a take-home final exam
Prerequisites: a 100-level ENGL course, or a score of 5 on the AP English Literature exam, or a score of 6 or 7 on the Higher Level IB English exam
Enrollment Preferences: English majors
Distributions: Division I
Attributes: ENGL Criticism Courses
ENGL Literary Histories A

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