Abyssinias Samuel Johnson: Ethiopian Thought in the Making of an English Author

Hardcover | June 6, 2012

byWendy Laura Belcher

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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 producedby 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 challengesconventional 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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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 thi...

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.

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Paperback|Jan 21 2009

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:336 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.98 inPublished:June 6, 2012Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199793212

ISBN - 13:9780199793211

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Table of Contents

PrefaceAcknowledgmentsIntroduction1. Three Thousand Years of Habesha History and Discourse2. Samuel Johnson's Discursive Possession and The Voyage to Abyssinia3. Johnson's Reading, Beliefs, and Translation of The Voyage to Abyssinia4. Habesha Discourse in The Voyage To Abyssinia5. Habesha Discourse and Johnson's Drama Irene6. Habesha Discourse and Johnson's Oriental Tales7. Habesha Discourse in Johnson's Sources for Rasselas8. Habesha Discourse and Johnson's RasselasConclusionBibliography