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Rounds of Air

Rounds of Air

(p.14) 1 Rounds of Air
Air’s Appearance
Jayne Elizabeth Lewis
University of Chicago Press

Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language (1755) gives a definition of “AIR” in an attempt to capture its complete complexity and essence. With the nature of air being invisible—a trait common with God and other elements—this definition falls flat as merely words that work to make “air” apparent. So difficult was the task that Johnson turned to hymnodist Isaac Watts in his Logick for answers, answers that Watts could not provide. Watts looked at several aspects of what air might be: as matter or as fluid. The author then discusses air’s relationship to the written word, and how the discussion of its properties and limits shaped modern meteorology and the modern novel. For Watts and Johnson, a lesson was learned. Instead of asking what air is, they proposed to question the possibility of saying anything about air at all.

Keywords:   modern meteorology, Samuel Johnson, Isaac Watts, modern novel, Logick, Dictionary

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