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Samuel Johnson and His Circle

ENGL 543.301
M 3-6

Johnson's literary career spans more than a half century (1731-84), while his circle continues as an active entity until the death of Frances Burney in 1833, nearly forty years after his death. We will study a series of Johnsonian topics: Johnson and the English language, his treatment of Shakespeare and contemporary Shakespearean studies, Johnson as a classicist, his contributions to the art of the English essay, Johnson as a novelist, his role in the founding of the canon of English literature. I am interested in two different aspects of Johnson's circle--the men (Boswell, Reynolds, Garrick, Malone, et al.) and the women (Piozzi, Burney, Hannah More, Elizabeth Carter, et al.). His journey to Scotland allows us to consider him along with his biographer Boswell, and the study of the nascent English canon permits us to weigh the reforming of the Johnson myth in the half century after his death by Macaulay and Carlyle.

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