Abyssinia's Samuel Johnson: Ethiopian Thought in the Making of an English Author

Abyssinia's Samuel Johnson: Ethiopian Thought in the Making of an English Author

Hardback

By (author) Wendy Laura Belcher

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  • Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
  • Format: Hardback | 304 pages
  • Dimensions: 160mm x 239mm x 28mm | 454g
  • Publication date: 21 June 2012
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0199793212
  • ISBN 13: 9780199793211
  • Sales rank: 1,521,071

Product description

As a very young man, one of the most celebrated English authors of the eighteenth century translated a tome about Ethiopia. This experience permanently marked Samuel Johnson, leaving traces of the African discourse he encountered in that text in his drama Irene; several of his short stories; and his most famous fiction, Rasselas. In this book, Wendy Laura Belcher provides a much needed perspective in comparative literature and postcolonial studies on the power of the discourse of the other to infuse European texts. Belcher illuminates how the Western literary canon is globally produced by developing the powerful metaphor of spirit possession to posit some texts in the European canon as energumens, texts that are spoken through. Her model of discursive possession offers a new way of theorizing transcultural intertextuality, in particular how Europe's others have co-constituted European representations. Through close readings of primary and secondary sources in English, French, Portuguese, and Ge'ez, Belcher challenges conventional wisdom on Johnson's work, from the inspiration for the name Rasselas and the nature of Johnson's religious beliefs to what makes Rasselas so strange.

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Author information

Wendy Laura Belcher is Assistant Professor of African literature at Princeton University in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Center for African American Studies. She is a winner of the Washington State Governors Writers Award and PEN Society Martha Albrand finalist for first book of nonfiction.

Review quote

Belcher's account radically reframes Johnson's thought while also offering a new model Jessica Richard, Review of English Studies Belcher's strongest suit stems from her careful examination of relevant texts. Nobody before her has examined the Lobo translation in such detail. As a result she is able to demonstrate what few have suspected Robert Fraser, LUCAS For any collection supporting teaching or research on Johnson, 18th-century culture, the history of colonialism, or posttcolonial theory, this book is required reading. C.S. Vilmar, CHOICE

Table of contents

Preface ; Acknowledgments ; Introduction 1 ; Chapter 1. Three Thousand Years of Habesha History and Discourse ; Chapter 2: Samuel Johnson's Discursive Possession and The Voyage to Abyssinia ; Chapter 3: Johnson's Reading, Beliefs, and Translation of The Voyage to Abyssinia ; Chapter 4: Habesha Discourse in The Voyage To Abyssinia ; Chapter 5: Habesha Discourse and Johnson's Drama Irene ; Chapter 6: Habesha Discourse and Johnson's Oriental Tales ; Chapter 7: Habesha Discourse in Johnson's Sources for Rasselas ; Chapter 8: Habesha Discourse and Johnson's Rasselas ; Conclusion ; Bibliography