Mentoring and Intertextuality in Samuel Johnson

Anthony W. Lee

Dead Masters: Mentoring and Intertextuality in Samuel Johnson examines the dual issues of mentoring and intertextuality as an integrated phenomenon. Through a series of fresh and novel readings of Johnsonian and Boswellian texts, the book offers insight not only into these two issues, but further advances our awareness of the formal complexities of Johnson’s writings and the psychological substratum from which they issue.


Lee utilizes a variety of critical perspectives—for example, the tools of Bloomean anxiety of influence, post-colonial and deconstructive criticism, and explicative analysis—under the generalized and flexible rubric of mentoring to explore the processes of textual influence, mentoring relationships, and cultural authority within Johnson’s work. The goals of this book include the consolidation of mentoring as a fruitful critical perspective from which to understand Johnson; the establishment of an intertextual framework for understanding Johnson; and the effort to offer a series of readings of Johnson that more fully divulge the power and complexity of his writing. The book further seeks to effect, via the mediation of a series of pragmatic readings, a rapprochement between the theoretical divide separating psychological interpretations of Johnson (interpersonal mentoring encounters) and linguistic and formal interpretations (especially intertextuality).




Lee (Arkansas Technical Univ.) has completed another book on literary mentoring. Unlike his earlier work on this subject, the present title argues that intertextuality reveals a specific kind of mentoring between author and source text. Such relationships are often fraught and contested, especially when there are multiple sources. (Lee similarly draws on an eclectic mix of theorists to elucidate the presence and significance of other writers' works in Johnson's writing.) Johnson's most significant affiliations are treated in more-or-less separate chapters (though there is some overlap): Dryden, Addison, Milton, and Pope. These authors are obstacles to, as well as enablers of, Johnson's career as critic, essayist, and (arguably) the foremost writer of his time. A final chapter summarizes and extends Lee's theory of intertextual meaning by treating Boswell's own troubled relationship to Johnson's authority and presence. Although the book is primarily a contribution to Johnson studies, Lee's remarks deserve wider consideration. Particularly fruitful is his elaboration of intertextuality as a kind of mentoring that goes beyond the matter of simple influence to reveal a complex affiliation, as agonistic and debilitating as it is benevolent and inspiring. Summing Up: Recommended.


--C. S. Vilmar, Salisbury University, Choice

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Lehigh University Press - Dead Masters