Chapter

What Is It About Johnson?

Isobel Grundy

in Samuel Johnson

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199654345
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745003 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199654345.003.0014
What Is It About Johnson?

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This chapter looks at the phenomenon that is Johnson in the light of this volume's theme — contrary intellectual and emotional forces which he held in equilibrium only by constant effort. What posterity demands of its writers — pleasure and value in reading, name recognition, a sense of personal access to the writer's mind — are offered by Johnson through mental effort or struggle. Pleasure in reading him comes from tracking the twists and turns of his thinking; the insights the reader carries away are not inertly aphoristic but hard-won; Johnson's iconic status does not preclude widely differing interpretations and the provision of different ideals for different ideological groupings; and the personal relationship he establishes with his reader involves admitting a shared moral inadequacy to the demands posed by life's complex, shifting, contradictory dilemmas.

Keywords: Samuel Johnson; reading pleasure; biography; moral meaning; brand recognition; iconic status; reputation; relationship with reader

Chapter.  5892 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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