In this book, first published in 1984, Joel Weinsheimer advocates revitalizing the practice of imitating literature as a mode appropriate for literary critics as well as artists. The book is not only about imitation; it is itself an imitation, specifically of Samuel Johnson. As both the focus and mode of presentation, imitation is presented not merely as a kind of poetry that once flourished in the eighteenth century but also as a kind of criticism particularly relevant today. Applying arguments from philosophy of science, deconstruction, psycho-analysis, literary theory, semiotics and hermeneutics, Weinsheimer shows that the three main currents of thought responsible for forcing imitation underground were empiricism, originalism and historicism. The three central chapters of the book concentrate on their representatives: John Locke, Edward Young and Thomas Warton. The author then applies Johnsonian arguments – supported by those of Gadamer Peirce – to challenge those objections and re-establish imitation as an intellectually defensible mode of writing.
Acknowledgments; Introduction; 1. Pause awhile from letters to be wise: empiricism 2. Once more, Democritus: originalism 3. And Swift expires a driv’ler and a show: historicism; Conclusion; Notes; Bibliography of influences
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