Loving Dr. Johnson
The autopsy of Samuel Johnson (1709-84) initiated two centuries of Johnsonian anatomy-both in medical speculation about his famously unruly body and in literary devotion to his anecdotal remains. Even today, Johnson is an enduring symbol of individuality, authority, masculinity, and Englishness, ultimately lending a style and a name—the Age of Johnson—to the eighteenth-century English literary canon.
Loving Dr. Johnson uses the enormous popularity of Johnson to understand a singular case of author love and to reflect upon what the love of authors has to do with the love of literature. Helen Deutsch's work is driven by several impulses, among them her affection for both Johnson's work and Boswell's biography of him, and her own distance from the largely male tradition of Johnsonian criticism—a tradition to which she remains indebted and to which Loving Dr. Johnson is ultimately an homage. Limning sharply Johnson's capacious oeuvre, Deutsch's study is also the first of its kind to examine the practices and rituals of Johnsonian societies around the world, wherein Johnson's literary work is now dwarfed by the figure of the writer himself.
An absorbing look at one iconic author and his afterlives, Loving Dr. Johnson will be of enormous value to students of English literature and literary scholars keenly interested in canon formation.
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