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

ISBN13: 9780199793211
Release Date: May 31st 2012
Published by: Oxford University Press, USA
Pages: 304

As a young man, Samuel Johnson, one of the most celebrated English authors of the eighteenth century, translated A Voyage to Abyssinia by Jeronimo Lobo, a tome by a Portuguese missionary about the country now known as Ethiopia. Far from being a potboiler, this translation left an indelible imprint on Johnson. Demonstrating its importance through a range of research and attentive close readings, Abyssinia's Samuel Johnson highlights the lasting influence of an African people on Johnson's oeuvre.
Wendy Laura Belcher uncovers traces of African discourse in Johnson's only work conceived for the stage, Irene; several of his short stories; and, of course, his most famous fiction, The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia. Throughout, Belcher provides a much needed perspective on the power of the discourse of the other to infuse European texts. Most pointedly, she illuminates how the Western literary canon is globally produced, developing the powerful metaphor of spirit possession to suggest that some texts in the European canon are best understood 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. Drawing on sources in English, French, Portuguese, and Ge'ez, this study challenges the 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.
A rich monograph that fuses eighteenth-century studies, comparative literature, and postcolonial theory, Abyssinia's Samuel Johnson adds a fresh perspective on and a wealth of insights into the great, enigmatic man of letters.

More work like this

Rethinking Reproduction, Reimagining Technology
Ruha Benjamin
Political Activism and Expression in Today's NBA
Adam Silver, Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., Craig Robinson, Steve Mills
The Souls of Black Folk (Audio and ePub)
W.E.B. Du Bois
Mike Brown’s Body: Meditations on War, Race and Democracy
Robin D.G. Kelley

Upcoming Events

Hold: A Meditation on Black Aesthetics
Nov 4, 2017 @ 9:00 am - Feb 11, 2018 @ 7:00 pm
Screening of 'Rosenwald' (2015)
Nov 27, 2017 @ 4:30 pm
The Half-Life of Freedom: Jelani Cobb
Nov 28, 2017 @ 4:30 pm
Cinema Today — Film Blackness: Screening of various films by Frances Bodomo and Ja’Tovia Gary
Nov 29, 2017 @ 7:30 pm
Making History Visible: Faculty Roundtable on Art and Visualizing the American Nation
Dec 1, 2017 @ 2:00 pm
Morgan Parker, poetry reading
Dec 14, 2017 @ 4:30 pm
p: (609) 258-4270 | f: (609) 258-3484

African American Studies for the 21st Century

© 2017 The Trustees of Princeton University
  1. 'Rethinking Empire and Democracy' Reena N. Goldthree, Eddie S. Glaude Jr. 44:49
  2. 'The Formation of Religio-Racial Identity' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Judith Weisenfeld 47:32
  3. 'What Was African American Marriage?' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Tera Hunter 44:59
  4. 'Before Cornel West, After Cornel West' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Cornel West 52:46
  5. 'An Insistence on Not Being Discouraged' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Chika Okeke-Agulu 55:19
  6. 'A Through Line for African American Studies' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Imani Perry 44:07
  7. 'Activism and Risk in the Face of Trump' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Asanni York, Destiny Crockett 43:02
  8. 'Langston Hughes, Religious Thinker' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Wallace Best 45:50
  9. 'Convergences and Dissonance' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Keeanga-Yamahatta Taylor, Naomi Murakawa, & Imani Perry 60:08