English Language and Literature ETDs

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In the Rambler, more than in the Idler and the Adventurer, Dr. Johnson continually recurs to the subject of learning. If he does not devote an entire essay to an aspect of learning, he may use an exemplary man of letters or a scholarly allusion to illustrate another unrelated subject. Profuse and disparate as these essays and illus­trations are, there is enough material to theorize constructively about Johnson's attitude toward learning. This is very often that of an eighteenth-century religious humanist and a moral satirist. He sees the necessity for a revivification of the traditional ideals of learning, those of truth, morality, and craft. Although he sees learning's part as a profound, complex, and rather uneasy one, Johnson places it within a total social harmony. He satirizes the relationship between learning and society in order to clarify, strengthen, and invigorate that relationship. As Steele did in the Tatler and Addison did in the Spectator, so Johnson "censors manners and morals.” He criticizes scholars who are removed from life and whose learning is useless, as he does society persons who are, in another way, removed from life and whose "faculties are contracted His satire concerns manners, the most obvious symptoms of moral failure. While wishing for a humanization of learning, Johnson warns against sacrificing intellectual integrity for social conformity. Professionally, be advocates a union that would protect the interests and dignity of learning.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Bailey B. McBride

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Third Committee Member

Franklin Miller Dickey



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