Johnson Re-Visioned

Philip Smallwood (Ed.)

Looking Before and After

2009
179 pages
$27.95
ISBN 0-8387-5494-5
LC 2001025983
Bucknell Studies in Eighteenth Century Literature and Culture

Paperback

How far does Johnson's mind touch the critical consciousness of the present day, and how far is the modern experience of his writings a form of historical knowledge? This volume of essays by British and American scholars seeks to answer these questions from a sequence of argued perspectives that looks both to the past and to the potential future of Johnson's reputation.

Johnson's axial position is examined initially in the grounding discussion by Greg Clingham of the present moment in Johnsonian scholarship. Clement Hawes then investigates Johnson's involvement in the cultural and political construction of an "English" literature that is not narrowly nationalistic. Essays by James G. Basker and Jaclyn Geller develop the discussion of the liminal aspects of Johnson's thought by exploring his intuitions on race and gender. In the final phase of the volume, an essay by Danielle Insalaco reveals hitherto uninvestigated resonances in Johnson's idea of history; Philip Smallwood analyzes the ways in which Johnson's criticism has itself been historicized, while in the concluding essay Tom Mason and Adam Rounce take readers back to the first responses to Johnson's literary judgements on poetry, and emphasize their power to stir controversy then and now.

Johnson Re-Visioned persuasively demonstrates that in the current debates about scholarship, nationalism, race, gender, history, criticism, and poetry, the discomforting counter-complacency of Samuel Johnson carries a radical authority across the years in between.

Reviews:

"This is an important contribution to Johnson scholarship, which will be valued by those who are inclined to worry about Johnsonians' ossified scholarly practices." --Henry Hitchings, Times Literary Supplement

"The essays are uniformly focused, learned,and accessible to readers of all levels. The book is therefore recommended for all academic collections, from lower-division undergraduate through faculty." -- J.T. Lynch, Choice

About the editor:

Philip Smallwood is Professor of English at the University of Central England in Birmingham, and the author, most recently, of Reconstructing Criticism: Pope's "Essay on Criticism" and the Logic of Definition (Bucknell University Press, 2003) and Johnson's Critical Presence: Image, History, Judgment (Ashgate Publishing, 2004).

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