Here is a draft of a talk I am to give soon. I was asked to present something that might inspire majors and non-majors, and to do something more like what I would do in a class than what I would do giving a conference paper. This is the result so far. It is a formalization of the sort of thing I might do in an upper-level class. Since I think of it as a talk and not a paper, it is not bedecked with all the scholarly niceties–footnotes or full footnotes, etc. Most of the footnotes are really just drawers in which I have stashed useful quotations or (I hope) brief, helpful clarifications. Comments welcome.
Every word in a piece of Augustan verse has an air of being able to give the reason why it has been chosen, and placed just there. The thoughts that the Augustan poet, like any other Augustan writer, sets himself to express are amply provided for by the ready-minted concepts of the common currency. What he has to do is to put them together with elegance and point according to the rules of grammar, syntax and versification. The exploratory-creative use of words upon experience, involving the creation of concepts in a free play for which the lines and configurations of the conventionally charted have no finality, is something [Johnson] has no use for; it is completely alien to his habit. So that even when he is Johnson, whose perception so transcends his training, he cannot securely appreciate the Shakespearean creativeness.