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date: 11 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Samuel Johnson says much about the poetic role of descriptive language in the Lives of the Poets (1779–81). The purpose of verbal imagery is to place vivid illustration before the mind’s eye, according to Johnson, but also serves as a treasury of elegance and a source of dignity. Joseph Trapp, Lord Kames, and Hugh Blair take up the comparative poetics of imagery under the rubric of empirical aesthetics. For Trapp imagery extends beyond objects to capture sense impressions in language; for Kames it is aligned with the association of ideas in the attainment of “ideal presence” in literature; and for Blair imagery brings variety, graciousness, and enjoyment to the experience of verse. Blair also brings imagery within the bounds of metaphor, in that the metaphorical vehicle is seen to describe or illustrate the tenor, so posing the longstanding critical problem of a single term naming distinct forms of description and resemblance.

Keywords: poetry, imagery, description, metaphor, criticism

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