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E211 JOSEPH ADDISON AND SIR RICHARD STEELE QUESTIONS
Assigned: Joseph Addison and Sir Richard Steele. "The Aims of the Spectator" (2473-75); "Inkle and Yarico" (2476-78); "The Royal Exchange" (2478-81) "Wit: True, False, Mixed" (2481-85); "Paradise Lost: General Critical Remarks" (2485-88); "The Pleasures of the Imagination" (2488-90); "On the Scale of Being" (2490-92).
"The Aims of the Spectator" (Addison)
1. What goals does Addison set for himself as a periodical essay-writer? To whom does he say he addresses his words, and why?
2. Name one prominent periodical writer or newspaper columnist today and briefly discuss that writer's strengths and weaknesses. Do you think that such journalism is vital to the formation of public opinion today? What other sources of opinion can you name?
"Inkle and Yariko" (Steele)
3. Steele makes Arietta retell from Ligon's 1657 The True and Exact History of Barbados a story later woven into many literary works, including George Coleman's 1787 opera version. (The story was also used by C18 English abolitionists in their successful stand against the British slave trade.) What counter-narrative does the tale oppose to the usual stereotyping of women as fickle and dissembling? What instruction does it offer literate women in waging a kind of "guerrilla warfare" against sexism reinforced by the literary canon?
"The Royal Exchange" (Addison)
4. What is the value of a merchant, in Addison's view? Much later, Karl Marx wrote admiringly, if also scathingly, of the way in which capitalism tears down old barriers between nations and cultures, replacing an economy of need with an economy driven by desire -- how does Addison pay tribute to this quality of market economics?
"Wit: True, False, Mixed" (Addison)
5. How does Addison define the three kinds of wit? Why is judgment, as opposed to wit, "contrary to metaphor and allusion"?
6. What characterizes "mixed wit"? Who are the "Goths in poetry," and what reproach does Addison make against them? In what sense is his argument "neoclassical," as you understand that term?
"Paradise Lost: General Remarks" (Addison)
7. Against what criticisms does Addison defend Milton's epic? How does Addison enlist neo-Aristotelian ideas on the dramatic unities in the service of his argument?
"The Pleasures of the Imagination" (Addison)
8. Why is sight "the most perfect and most delightful of all our senses" (2488), according to Addison -- what does it do that the other senses can't?
9. What does "imagination" mean in Addison's essay? And while this author doesn't give imagination the nod over understanding, what benefits does imagination nonetheless bring to those most capable of exercising it?
10. If my current syllabus has included Sidney's "Defense of Poesy," to what extent do you find Addison's remarks about "the pleasures of the imagination" compatible with Sidney's claims about what art can do for us?
"On the Scale of Being" (Addison)
11. Addison elaborates on the Great Chain of Being, a notion of the universe commonly set forth during the Renaissance and for some time afterwards. What further developments of the basic idea of life's interconnectedness does he offer, and what notions about God accord with the Great Chain of Being?
Edition: Abrams, M. H. et al, eds. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 8th ed. Vol. C. New York: Norton, 2006. ISBN Package 1 (Vols. ABC) 0-393-92833-0.