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As well as such famous works as London and The Vanity of Human Wishes, both owing much to Juvenal, Samuel Johnson wrote many poems in Latin and several in Greek. He also translated a large batch of epigrams from the Greek Anthology into Latin to while away the sleepless nights of the last winter before he died. His subjects vary from religious themes and the quality of Pembroke College beer, to a motto for a goat that circumnavigated the globe, to his own ill-health. Some pieces are entertaining squibs; others disclose his complex emotions towards people and places.
This book applies some of the procedures of modern critical theory to the interpretation of Latin poetry. The author argues for an approach that sees the meaning of a text as always and necessarily involved in the process of "reception," that is the way it has been read and interpreted from the time of its composition down to the present day. A study of its reception-history facilitates novel and more profitable ways of reading. He illustrates his approach with exemplary readings of Virgil, Ovid, Horace and Lucan.
This work is based on a simple premise-that in the case of a major figure like Johnson the reader should have access to all his work. Johnson himself would not have wished that in an age when very few can read the language his Latin poetry should be consigned to a separate category, closed to most educated readers.
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