Johnson, Writing, and Memory

By Greg Clingham | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
Narrative, history, and memory
in the Lives of the Poets

The notion that people more often need to be reminded than informed is central to Johnson's thinking about human experience. 1 Anticipating the basic recollective structure of psychoanalysis, in which the past through “repetition” seeks re-emplotment in a newly imagined narrative, 2 Johnson's idea speaks to the relationships among memory, knowledge, writing, and character which inform the structure and experiential content of the Lives of the Poets. These are relationships which make for the constitutive and “redemptive” functions of biographical memory. Such theoretical terms have long been used to describe Boswell's biographical writing, and, while the fictive nature of biographical writing most obviously, the use of tropes and figurative language in recording a life – has been widely accepted in other areas of literary studies, 3 we have insisted on seeing Johnson as wedded to a theory of positivistic verisimilitude. Oddly, we have not registered Johnson's insistence on the imaginativeness of life writing. In “Rambler” 60 he notes that, like high forms of literature, biography succeeds in proportion to its capacity to draw on and appeal to common human experiences, for “[a]ll joy or sorrow for the happiness or calamities of others is produced by an act of imagination, that realises the event however fictitious, or approximates it however remote… Our passions are therefore more strongly moved, in proportion as we can more readily adopt the pains and the pleasures proposed to our minds” (in, 318–19).

The sympathetic experience described here is no different in kind from that of poetry or fiction. Evidently, all good writing for Johnson appeals to human passions, and “Rambler” 60 assumes that a biographer fulfills his purpose in proportion to the creativity of the writing. He may be able to conceive the pains and the pleasures of other minds, but must also excite them - “uniformity of sentiment… enables us to conceive and to excite the pains and the pleasure of other minds” (Lives, 1, 20). In doing so we are able to distinguish a mere “chronological series

-89-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Johnson, Writing, and Memory
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • Abbreviations x
  • Introduction - Johnson and Authority 1
  • Chapter 1 - Johnson and Memory 14
  • Chapter 2 - Johnson and Nature 36
  • Chapter 3 - Law, Narrative, and Memory 60
  • Chapter 4 - Narrative, History, and Memory in the Lives of the Poets 89
  • Chapter 5 - Translation and Memory in the Lives of the Poets 122
  • Chapter 6 - Historiographical Implications 158
  • Notes 168
  • Bibliography 202
  • Index 216
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 222

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.