14th Annual Seminar

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The 14th annual seminar of the JSA was held at the English Speaking Union in Melbourne on Saturday June 17. A feature of the program was a rehearsed reading of  Johnson’s play Irene by a cast from the Shakespeare Society, and among the papers was a stirring account of the female gladiators and boxers of 18th Century London, by Genny Gebhardt, who travelled from Seattle in the US to speak at the seminar.

Subjects and speakers were:

Boudicca’s Daughters: the fighting women of Johnson’s London
Genny Gebhardt takes a look at the London gladiatrix, both in and out of the ring, her competitive spirit and the will to survive.

Genny, who lives in Seattle, US, works as a proof reader and writer. This is the third paper she has delivered at a JSA seminar.

Following Sir Joshua: biographical portraits of Johnson
This is a sequel to a paper delivered to the 2004 seminar which considered Sir Joshua Reynolds’ series of portraits of Samuel Johnson, and argued that these make up a form of biographical narrative. After Johnson’s death, especially in the mid-Victorian period, another form of biographical painting took over—imaginative re-tellings of incidents mentioned in Boswell’s Life of Johnson. Images of them will be shown during the talk.

Daniel Vuillermin is a tutor and post-graduate student in the English Program at La Trobe University.

Johnson and the Theatre
Johnson, said Mrs Thrale, had ‘a strong prejudice against players’ (ie. actors). But was he prejudiced against the theatre itself? This paper, which is anintroduction to the performance of Irene, looks at Johnson’s shifting and ambiguous attitude to the theatre, beginning with his friendship with Garrick and ending with his acquaintance with Mrs Siddons.

John Wiltshire is Professor of English at La Trobe University.

Irene: a rehearsed reading
Members of the Melbourne Shakespeare Society present a reading of Johnson’s play Irene.

Samuel Johnson, Anglican identity
If Johnson were to review the reception of his life and work over the past 200 years, we imagine he would be pleased by the scrutiny given to the Dictionary , the essays, the Lives of the Poets and Boswell’s version of his Life. How would he view, though, the silence that sometimes obscures the most important factor in his personal life, his religion? This paper is a reading of some prayers, essay passages, poems and other spiritual writing that serve as a definition for  Johnson’s Anglicanism, and listens to the words for the particularity of his own spiritual practice.

Philip Harvey is Librarian at the Melba Conservatorium of Music and also works at the Carmelite
Library in Middle Park.

A Johnsonian journey
On his recent visit to England for the celebrations of the 250th anniversary of Johnson’s Dictionary, John Byrne shows us some of the Johnsonian treasures he acquired during the visit, including a Johnsonian manuscript from the last year of Johnson’s life.

John has Australia’s largest private collection of Johnson and Johnsoniana and frequently lectures on book collecting and Johnsonian matters at the University of Western Australia.