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On the Learning-Based Critical Biography: A Case Study of Dr. Johnson’s Lives of the English Poets

Abstract: This critical essay discusses how Samuel Johnson’s famous work Lives of the English Poets succeeds in combining literary criticism of poetry with the lives of the poets, and thus becomes an important text both in the fields of literary criticism and the life writing. The essay also looks into the nature of criticism based on one’s learning and Johnson’s unique contribution to this kind of criticism. And in Section 4, the essay offers a comparative analysis of the lives of Savage and Cowley in Lives of the English Poets, commenting on the strong and weak points of each.

Key words: Johnson; learning-based criticism; Lives of the English Poets;Savage; Cowley

Liu Yiqing had been a Professor of English and supervisor of doctoral students of the English Department of Peking University before she retired. She graduated from the Department of Western Languages and Literatures of Peking University in 1964 and had taught there till her retirement. She was twice abroad, first studying for an MA degree at the SUNY at Albany of the United States and later for a Ph.D at the University of Chicago. Before she retired from teaching, she was Vice-Chairman of the Academic Committee of the School of Foreign Languages of Peking University, Vice-Chairman of Professional Committee of Foreign Literature, Chinese Association of Higher Education, and board member of Foreign Literature Association of China, and was on the editing board of several key literary journals such as Foreign Literature Review, Foreign Literatures, and Foreign Literature. She has won prestige in China in the fields of the study of 18th-century English Literature and Literary Study of the Bible. She is also established in China as an expert of English and American Novels of the 19th century as well as that of the Canadian Literature. Besides more than 50 academic articles she has published, her major publications are: 100 Biblical Stories, Samuel Richardson: Writer of Female Heart, Reading the Bible as Literature: Theory and Practice, The History of the 18th-Century English Literature, Volume One of The History of European Literatures, etc.. She enjoys the higher-education special stipend issued by the State Council and her works and articles were several times awarded prizes of outstanding achievements of social sciences issued by Peking University or Beijing Municipal government.