Category Archives: Johnson (Samuel)

Implore His Aid, in His Decisions Rest

The famous passage from Ecclesiastes–“All is vanity”–inspired a great poem by Samuel Johnson. Johnson’s final conclusion is that we can find happiness only in prayer.

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Johnson: The Bard Instructs by Delighting

Although today we are sometimes suspicious when literature seeks to instruct us, Samuel Johnson considered this to be literature’s primary aim. He held up Shakespeare as proof.

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Peter Wimsey vs. Oklahoma Executions

With Oklahoma resuming its executions yesterday, we need the reminders that Dorothy Sayers and Oscar Wilde give us about holding on to our humanity.

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In Defense of the English Major

Adam Gopnik makes a spirited defense of the English major in a recent “New Yorker” article.

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No More Privacy–And We Don’t Care

We no longer fiercely guide our privacy, as did the worlds of Austen, Trollope, Thoreau, and Melville.

Also posted in Boswell (James), Melville (Herman), Thoreau (Henry David), Trollope (Anthony) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Life as a Stage Coach Ride

America is in many ways like the stage coach rides described by Samuel Johnson and Henry Fielding.

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Paul Ryan: No Country for Old Men

Paul Ryan’s speech before AARP brings to mind the generational conflict described in Samuel Johnson’s “Rasselas.”

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Rightwing Rewrites Reality

Today’s Republican right are practitioners of the Humpty Dumpty approach to communication: “I said it very loud and clear. I went and shouted in his ear.” Like Lewis Carroll’s Humpty, they also believe that they can make reality, as Humpty makes words, mean whatever they want it to mean.

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Rasselas, a Bloglodyte’s Salvation

As a blogger, I sometimes spend excessive amounts of time in solitary contemplation. Samuel Johnson warns of the dangers of such a skewed perspective in his philosophic narrative “Rasselas.”

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At 60, a Comfortable Old Scarecrow

Having just turned 60, I’ve been thinking of Teiresias. Wise though the blind seer may be, his advice doesn’t help others that much. Aging, in other words, appears to require humility.

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Election Got You Down? Read Johnson

By the end of today in the United States, some will be celebrating and others will be rending their garments and gnashing their teeth. While I am not one to underestimate the significant of elections—I think voting is one of a citizen’s most important responsibilities—I also caution everyone not to become (in the words of […]

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Mocking Adult Anxieties about Novels

“Before,” by William Hogarth (1736) What can happen to your daughters if they read novels? According to William Hogarth, something like the above. Check out the lower left hand corner where a side table is falling over. The drawer has been left casually but deliberately open so that one can see the book that is […]

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  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

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