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Designing the Life of Johnson

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Designing the Life of Johnson

The Lyell Lectures in Bibliography, 2001-2


Paperback / softback

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Designing the Life of Johnson by Bruce Redford
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For over two centuries Boswell's massive biography of Samuel Johnson has been both reverenced and reviled. Yet neither its admirers nor its critics have fully understood how the book was designed to work upon them. Boswell himself is partly to blame: throughout the Life he directs attention away from artistry to industry, from creative choices to dedicated researches. Yet his working manuscript, one of the twentieth century's greatest literary discoveries, tells a much different tale. Designing the Life of Johnson, the first study of its kind, reconstructs Boswell's models and methods by charting this textual labyrinth. It begins by analysing the stages that led to the first edition, goes on to reveal the impact of portrait and theatre-piece upon the structure of the Life, and ends by uncovering the transformation of Johnson from savage into sage. The result is a more subtle, more vital assessment of Boswell the designer - and an enhanced awareness of biography's power to make life into art.

Author Biography

Professor Redford is a literary historian, editor, and critic, with a strong interest in classical studies and the visual arts. He has published essays on topics as diverse as medieval hagiography, rococo portraiture, and the religious poetry of W.H. Auden. During the past decade and a half, his scholarship has centered on eighteenth-century British culture. The Converse of the Pen: Acts of Intimacy in the Eighteenth-Century Familiar Letter (1986) was followed by The Letters of Samuel Johnson (five volumes, 1992-94), Venice and the Grand Tour (1996), and the second volume of Boswell's Life of Johnson: An Edition of the Original Manuscript (1998). In 2001/2002 he delivered the Lyell Lectures in bibliography at Oxford University; these lectures have been published as Designing the "Life of Johnson" (2002). A past president of the Johnson Society, he has received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, All Souls College (Oxford), and the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
Release date NZ
August 1st, 2005
Country of Publication
United Kingdom
8 plates
Oxford University Press
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