|dc.description.abstract||Since James Boswell’s seminal biography The Life of Johnson (1791), there has been a myth of Samuel Johnson (1709-84) as recalcitrant anglophile, essentially relegating him to the position of cultural monolith. After writing the Dictionary in 1755, Johnson assumed the role of England’s literary emperor, even if it was a title that he was perhaps leery of accepting. His hesitancy notwithstanding, Johnson felt an almost innate responsibility to defend his homeland, and particularly its literature, against the assaults of outsiders. Johnson’s literary clashes with Voltaire (1694-1778) and philosophical qualms with Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78) epitomize the squabbles Johnson had with his French neighbors across the channel; however, I will show that the three men were not actually far removed from one another--in both their writing and ideology.
I believe that my work is a worthwhile contribution to existing scholarship on Samuel Johnson because the vast majority of scholars have either chosen to ignore or overlook any potential intersections between Johnson and the French. Simply dwelling upon the glaring number of English/French distinctions between has relegated Johnson to a static figure--one which is completely antithetical to the dynamic and ever-changing ideas presented in his own writing. As such, I believe that by blindly subscribing to the Johnsonian myth, in part perpetuated by Boswell, scholars and readers are inadvertently cheating themselves out of a wider appreciation of Johnson’s versatility as a writer and individual. Attempting to minimize Johnson’s Francophobia is not a simple proposition and is admittedly unpopular with ardent Anglophiles, but it does seek to rescue him from the shackles of cultural elitism in which he has been constrained for over two centuries.||