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"Many readers assume that, as a neoclassical literary critic, Samuel Johnson would normally prefer the abstract, the formal, and the regulated to the concrete, the natural, and the spontaneous in a work of literature. Yet any close reading of Johnson’s criticism shows that Johnson is not blind to the importance of the immediate, vivid, specific detail in literature; rather, he would underscore the need for the telling rather than the merely accidental detail."

From "yet", I suppose that Smauel Johnson would prefer the concrete, the natural, and the spontaneous in a work of literature to the abstract, the formal, and the regulated.

But how dose "the concrete, the natural, and the spontaneous in a work of literature" correlate with "the importance of the immediate, vivid, specific detail in literature" and "the telling"? And what's the difference between "the telling" and "accidental detial"?

Thank you.
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Would you please give me a hand? Thank you.
Hi,

From "yet", I suppose that Smauel Johnson would prefer the concrete, the natural, and the spontaneous in a work of literature to the abstract, the formal, and the regulated. I wouldn't say he 'prefers' it. I'd say he recognizes that it can have equal importance.

But how dose "the concrete, the natural, and the spontaneous in a work of literature" correlate with "the importance of the immediate, vivid, specific detail in literature" ...? They are both talking about the same thing. The former is a more general statement and the latter is a more specific instance of the general statement. '...c oncrete things are important .... specific details are important....'

And what's the difference between "the telling" and "accidental detial"? 'telling' here is not a gerund, it's an adjective. The contrast is between 'a telling detail' and 'an accidental detail'. 'A telling detail' is one that reveals significant information.

eg The man denied killing his friend. He wore a blue shirt. His knuckles were white because he was holding his book so tightly. To the police officer,'blue' is an accidental detail, but 'tightly' is a telling detail.

Best wishes, Clive


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Thank you, Clive. I understand most of your point. But I’d like to ask you more.
Hope you will help solve them too.

First, let’s see in this way:
Readers assume that Johnson would prefer A to B. Yet any close reading of his criticism shows that he is not blind to B. (According to your answer that they are both talking about the same thing, here’s B, right? And Johnson takes A and B equally, since he doesn’t overlook the B, right?)

Second, I forgot to ask in the first place the difference between “the abstract, the formal, and the regulated” and “the concrete, the natural, and the spontaneous”, and what they are respectively.

Third, does ‘the need for the telling rather than merely accidental detail’ correlate “the concrete, the natural, and the spontaneous” or “the abstract, the formal, and the regulated”, and how? (Johnson is not blind to B; rather, he would underscore …. I guess there are the same thing.)

Thank you.
Hi again,

"Many readers assume that, as a neoclassical literary critic, Samuel Johnson would normally prefer A the abstract, the formal, and the regulated to B the concrete, the natural, and the spontaneous in a work of literature. Yet any close reading of Johnson’s criticism shows that Johnson is not blind to the importance of C the immediate, vivid, specific detail in literature; rather, he would underscore the need for the telling rather than the merely accidental detail."

Readers assume that Johnson would prefer A to B. Yet any close reading of his criticism shows that he is not blind to B. (According to your answer that they are both talking about the same thing, here’s B, right? Well, what I meant was B and C are talking about the same thing And Johnson takes A and B equally, since he doesn’t overlook the B, right? Yes )

Second, I forgot to ask in the first place the difference between “the abstract, the formal, and the regulated” and “the concrete, the natural, and the spontaneous”, and what they are respectively.

Abstract = concepts, ideas, 'abstractions' Concrete=things you can see/touch/related to the real world

Formal=high literary style, self-consciously 'clever' writing, in a way that only highly/over educated people would appreciate Natural=the opposite, more everyday style, not so much conscious thought and cleverness

Regulated=writing/thinking in a way that other people teach in schools as being 'the correct way, the way you must write/think' Spontaneous = the opposite, writing/thinking in the way ordinary people do, quick writing without a lot of thought first.

Third, does ‘the need for the telling rather than merely accidental detail’ correlate to “the concrete, the natural, and the spontaneous” YES or “the abstract, the formal, and the regulated” NO , and how? (Johnson is not blind to B; rather, he would underscore …. I guess there are the same thing.YES) generally speaking, I'd say it relates more to the concrete"

Write again if you still have questions, OK? Clive
Thank you, Clive. Very clear, especially this part


Abstract = concepts, ideas, 'abstractions' Concrete=things you can see/touch/related to the real world

Formal=high literary style, self-consciously 'clever' writing, in a way that only highly/over educated people would appreciate Natural=the opposite, more everyday style, not so much conscious thought and cleverness

Regulated=writing/thinking in a way that other people teach in schools as being 'the correct way, the way you must write/think' Spontaneous = the opposite, writing/thinking in the way ordinary people do, quick writing without a lot of thought first.

And do you mean "the immediate, vivid, specific detail" relates more to "the concrete" than "the natural, and the spontaneous"?

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Hi,

And do you mean "the immediate, vivid, specific detail" relates more to "the concrete" than "the natural, and the spontaneous"?

Yes, that's what I meant. Although when I look again at the words, they relate like this:

specific >>>>> concrete

immediate >>>> spontaneous

vivid ---- natural (not such a close parallel, vivid is more 'colourful, striking, memorable')

Clive
Thank you Clive. Thank you so much for your time.