The encyclopedia – such as Diderot’s Encyclopédie (1751-80) or Ephraim Chambers’ Cyclopedia, or, An universal dictionary of arts and sciences (1728) – is a characteristic form of Enlightenment knowledge. It represents two opposing discourses in eighteenth-century culture: the positivistic impulse to comprehend and control, and the skeptical impulse to critique and question. This essay traces the dialogue between these two philosophical impulses in the writings of Samuel Johnson, identifying a transgressive element in his handling of the limits of knowledge that establishes, as does Diderot, striking continuities between dream, reason, and reality. Johnson’s thinking moves easily across the nominal divisions between genres and consciousness that usually remain separate in our notions of the Enlightenment. Thus to argue for the transformative effect of dream in Johnson’s thought is not to turn him into a Romantic or even a Freudian, but to recognise how he uses “necessary limitation” to produce what Foucault calls “a practical critique that takes the form of a possible transgression,” an encounter that for both Kant and Foucault define enlightenment.
|Keywords:||Enlightenment Encyclopedia, Dreams, Samual Johnson, Diderot, Foucault|
Professor, English, Director of University Press, Bucknell University, Bucknell, Pennsylvania, USA
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