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Chapter 17 - Johnson among the Scholars

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2022

Greg Clingham
Affiliation:
Bucknell University, Pennsylvania
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Summary

Like Johnson himself, the community of his devoted readers is divided in its attitude to the academy. Some Johnsonians are enthusiastic followers of the Great Cham striving to achieve the envied status of Johnsonianissimus without the taint of academic criticism; others are academics first and devotees of Johnson second. These humanistic scholars are often concerned with the text of Johnson, whereas the Johnsonians are concerned with his personality. A contest between these biographers, on the one hand, and those bibliographers, on the other, played itself out in the history of the Yale Edition of the Works of Samuel Johnson, twenty-three volumes (1958–2018). The impetus for the edition came largely from Johnsonians, but as time wore on, the academics became gradually more influential, and their approach eventually prevailed. This chapter is a kind of archaeology of the edition and reveals this shift in emphasis over time and a difference between American and British approaches to literary criticism.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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