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E211 Fall 2010 Students' Blog

E211 British Literature to 1760 Students' Blog. Fall 2010, CSU Fullerton.
Published by admin_main on Thu 09 Dec, 2010

5. In the selection "A Mastectomy" (2822-2827), how does Burney accomplish the difficult task of making readers understand what it felt like to undergo a radical mastectomy without anesthesia? (See the offsite excerpt Surgery Before Anesthesia. It is difficult even to imagine this sort of experience today — but what is it about Burney's "life writing" that makes it to some degree accessible?

In order to make people understand the extent of her feelings about the surgery, Burney gives a step by step account of her experience from the time she first feels pain to the conclusion of her surgery. At first, Burney is not worried about the pain in her breast, but she is finally convinced that she must see a doctor. She reveals her moment of epiphany telling readers, "Madame de Tracy, who wrote to me a long & eloquent letter upon the subject, that began to awaken very unpleasant surmises" (2822). It is a turning point in her mindset and the realization of what is happening begins to set in. Burney goes on to describe the emotions she felt while having to wait for the surgery, and upon first seeing the surgical instruments set up in her parlor saying, "the sight of the immense quantity of bandages, compresses, sponges, lint

Published by admin_main on Thu 09 Dec, 2010

3. In the selection "A Young and Agreeable Infidel" (2816-19), what exactly makes the woman Burney describes an "infidel"? How does Frances manage the conversation to bring out the woman's opinions and qualities, and what judgment does she make of them?

To start off, an Infidel is one who is not a Christian or who opposes Christianity. Being a Christian is believing that Christ gave his life up for all humans. It is also believing that life is only to be taken away by God himself. The woman that Burney describes is an infidel because this woman does not believe it's worth living without a partner. She said she would commit suicide it this were to happen. Only an infidel would think that being dead is better than being without a partner. "'

Published by admin_main on Wed 08 Dec, 2010

From 2786-90 ("Johnson's Early Years, Marriage and London"; "The Letter to Chesterfield"), Boswell recounts Johnson's friendship with the rakish poet Richard Savage and his dealings with the insidious Lord Chesterfield. What "Johnsonian" virtues do Boswell's anecdotes and remembrances bring to light? What does Johnson seem to value most in his friends and acquaintances?

The Life of Samuel Johnson by James Boswell is a collection of experiences and observations that Boswell wrote down during his time with Johnson. It has received much critical acclaim for the impact it has had on the more modern versions of biographies. Boswell wrote down the conversations between himself and Johnson which means that much of the text is about the later years of his life. Much of Johnson's early life, for example, was not recorded due to the lack of firsthand experience.

The anecdotes within the passages about Richard Savage and Lord Chesterfield bring to the light one important virtue that Johnson seems to value very highly; wit. It is this quality that Johnson seeks out for his companions. Richard Savage is a great example of this because he "could communicate to Johnson an abundant supply of such materials as his philosophical curiosity most eagerly desired" (2786). He also valued the confidence to speak one's mind. Johnson was not shy about his point of view and neither was Savage. They were poor, loud, and prideful. Pride is something that Johnson seems value. The events that occur between Lord Chesterfield and Johnson reveal a proud man. Johnson demands respect from his acquaintances and is indignant if he does not receive it. He appears to need constant praise for his work. This is evident from the events with Lord Chesterfield. Johnson wants praise and esteem from a man he respects for his intelligence, wit, and elegance. William Warburton, an editor of Pope and Shakespeare as well as a bishop, said that Johnson's actions towards Lord Chesterfield were manly (2789). Johnson, apparently, was very pleased with Warburton's comments and this is not surprising.

The common values that all of his friends and acquaintances possess seem to be intelligence and confidence. Johnson appears to surround himself with people who think not the same things as himself, but in the same way. Johnson likes to surround himself with people he can discuss all matters of life with, but who also recognize his genius.


Works Cited

Abrams, M. H. et al, eds. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 8th ed. Vol. C. New York: Norton, 2006

Published by admin_main on Mon 06 Dec, 2010

19. On 2745-46, what "chief advantage" does modern fiction have in comparison with the real-life objects it imitates or represents (ordinary people, events, and things)? How does Johnson turn this advantage into a moral imperative, and how does he refute those who insist that it's acceptable to represent morally ambivalent or composite characters?

In this passage, Johnson lays out his argument about the principles that should govern fiction. He argues that fiction should ultimately replicate actual life in its greatest moments of morality and virtue. This is because fiction is "written chiefly to the young, the ignorant, and the idle, to whom they serve as lectures of conduct, and introductions into life" (2744). As such, writers should protect the virtue of the impressionable, inexperienced young by ensuring that "nothing indecent should be suffered to approach their eyes or ears" (2744). Doing so would lead them to develop "unjust prejudices, perverse opinions, and incongruous combinations of images."

With previous works of fiction that embodied impossibly fantastic subject matter, "the reader was in very little danger of making any applications to himself." Herein lies the danger of fiction

Published by admin_main on Mon 06 Dec, 2010

1. On 2680-82 (Chs. 1-2), Johnson describes the young prince Rasselas' childhood environment with much care. What state of mind does this setting allude to? What is the relationship between Rasselas and the world around him at the outset of the story?

Rasselas' environment definitely alludes to the Garden of Eden in the Bible. He and other sons and daughters of Abyssinian royalty are confined to this private palace in a spacious valley that can only be entered through a cavern that passed under a rock. The entry is concealed by a thick wood in which no man can get through without some sort of engine or machine. This indicates the exclusiveness of it all, the fact that no others may enter. The lake in the middle is inhabited by "fish of every specials, and frequented by every fowl whom nature has taught to dip the wing in water." The sides of the mountains were abundant with trees and a vast array of flowers; "every blast shook spices from the rocks, and every month dropped fruits upon the ground." No beasts were able to get to the animals of the mountains. One side held birds and herds while other had "all the beasts of chase." Like in the Garden of Eden, "all the diversities of the world were brought together, the blessings of nature were collected, and its evil extracted and excluded." The place was secure, perfect, and harmonious; where the children were given all that they needed or desired. Rasselas knows nothing else but the perfection of which he resides.

It's interesting that the place could be seen as so perfect, but still, people are different. There's bound to be some conflict amongst the people that reside there. Isn't it?

2. On 2682-86 (Chs. 2-4), what causes Rasselas to become discontented with the way he lives? Why aren't his paradisal surroundings enough for him? What does his unhappiness have to do with the ancient problem of desire?

Rasselas becomes discontented with the way he lives when he begins to meditate and take solitary walks. He grows weary of what has been given, comparing himself to the animals of happy valley. He has the same needs as they do, and when the needs are met, rest comes. Yet, Rasselas does not rest. He is not satisfied with just being "full," something within him wants more. The things that he used to enjoy do not seem to please him anymore. He seems to be bored with the perfect routine of his life. He speaks to the goats saying that they do not envy him and he does not envy their felicity, "for it is not the felicity of man." He has distresses that they do not, he fears pain when he does not feel it, shrinking "at evils recollected, and sometimes start at evils anticipated." Rasselas then concludes that "Providence has balanced peculiar sufferings with peculiar enjoyments." When his teacher speaks to him in Ch. 3, the teacher tries to convince Rasselas that he has been given everything a man would need to be happy, asking him what else he could want. Rasselas tells him that he does not know what he wants and finally concludes that in order to truly be happy with what he has been given, he needs to "see the miseries of the world." He wastes 20 months trying to figure out his new question and feels regret for the first time.

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