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Lecture 12

ENGLISH 3G06 Lecture 12: The Beggar's Opera Cont' and Johnson

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Dr.Andrew Mc Kendry

The Beggar’s Opera - Aestheticized crime - There is a crisis of sincerity - There is a lot of anxiety b/c sincerity can be performed - The end of the play suggests that aesthetics have become more important - Act III, Scene 16 – Pg. 39: Macheath was going to be hanged but then he was excused for his crimes  there is no connection b/c punishment and crime  “poetical justice” – aesthetical justice is not the same as actual justice (a justice that doesn’t fit with the genre of the play)  The ending has to be changed so that the play doesn’t end in a tragedy  The performativity is more important than actual justice  The point of the play is to show that there is upper class, white collar crime that they get off of b/c they have the money  Anyone can be a criminal  Poor people are punished for their crimes but rich people also commit crimes but they get off for their crimes Samuel Johnson – The Rambler No. 114 (On Capital Punishment) - Pg. 693: complaining about capital punishment and how it was the punishment for 200 different th crimes in the 18 century - It is a problem for ethical reasons but also for pragmatic reasons - Capital punishment doesn’t actually work b/c it didn’t reduce crime - Humans have refined feelings that can’t watch people be executed - Capital punishment is a way of surveillance and justice system becomes part of every aspect of one’s life - Assuming that everyone is a criminal and the populations are constantly in a state of being surveilled - Power and justice will corrupt everyone - Since power and superiority s innate that’s where the justice system comes from - We think that we comply rather than obey, we have a choice and we are not controlled b/c we want to have power over our own lives - People want to see themselves as agreeably compliant - Reforming the justice system so that people are trained to obey the law (which ends up reducing the amounts of executions that occur) - Everyone wants to imagine themselves in positions of power - He critiques governing by force - Criminality as not being inherent rather people become criminals - If everyone is potentially a criminal, then everyone needs to be disciplined - There is a pleasure in seeing people suffer - Pg. 695: catching people before they commit the crime or a bigger crime - No one will turn anyone in b/c no one wants someone’s execution on their hands and no one will turn themselves in either - Empirical impulse of Johnson - Johnson wants to privilege over punishment is surveillance; criminality must be exposed and revealed - Detecting crime early - Putting people in work houses – b/c labour disciplines the body - Foucault: justice to reform people rather than punishing people  Making the justice system regular and normalized within one’s life - Tenderness for human life is being a virtue - There was a change in the idea of masculinity that enforced the idea of sensibility - Therefore, colonialism becomes problematic b/c tenderness towards human life was so important at the time - Making people less wicked by being easier on them which Johnson states is paradoxical
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