Driven to distinguish : Samuel Johnson's lexicographic turn of mind : a psychocritical study
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As a man of letters with an exceptionally extensive and diverse output, Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) has invited consideration from a variety of angles. The present study offers a 'reading' of Johnson as a framer of distinctions. His distinction-making activity is viewed as a capital feature of the oeuvre, characterizing it across almost its entire range, a very substantial body of evidence is adduced in support of this reading. Broken up by distinction-type, the mass of evidence sorts itself out into seventeen different categories themselves grouped under seven 'thematic' heads. The organization of the inquiry on taxonomic lines is intended both to throw into relief the multiform character of Johnson's distinction-making praxis (something not heretofore remarked) and also to provide a comprehensive, systematic and easily 'readable' account of it. That the evidence testifying to Johnson's distinction-making turned out to be so voluminous could not but occasion the thought that it might be an involuntary activity, a 'drive' grounded in the very 'set' of his psyche which comes in consequence to be viewed as in some sort 'formed for distinction-making'. This thought evolved into the thesis that the present study undertakes to defend, in doing which it becomes a psychocritical investigation inscribed within the theoretical frame of psychological stylistics whose aim is to make inferences and advance hypotheses about the build and workings of a mind from an analysis of the linguistic and stylistic data it generates.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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