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James Boswell and the Ossian Question

Date and Time: 
Thursday, December 4, 2014. 05:00 PM - 07:00 PM
Meeting Location: 
Building 110 - 112 (Classics)
Workshop: 
Oral Literature and Literate Orality
Meeting Description: 
Samuel Johnson famously denounces James Macpherson’s Ossian poems as forgeries, but his friend and biographer, Scotsman James Boswell, evinces greater sympathy for the poems. Johnson and Boswell's divergence in opinion not only reproduces the Ossian controversy in miniature but also exposes a fracture in what we tend to think of as the hegemonic empiricism of the eighteenth century. Thus, in contrast to the dominant narrative about the Age of Enlightenment, Walle examines the possibility that Ossian's appeal lies in a resistance to empiricism and reveals a new (or old) way of knowing that Boswell locates in the oral tradition from which Ossian is supposed to have sprung.
 
About the speaker:
Taylor Walle is a Ph.D. candidate at UCLA in the Department of English. Her dissertation analyzes the perseverance of orality and oral modes of communication in British literature of the 18th century.
 

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