English 190

Research Seminar: William Blake


Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
4 Fall 2018 Goldstein, Amanda Jo
TTh 9:30-11 note new location: 6 Evans

Description

In this seminar, we will read our way slowly into William Blake's forbidding and exciting “fourfold” poetic environments: graphic works of “Illuminated Printing” in which a city like London, or “Golgonooza,” is also a level of consciousness, a bodily organ, a phase of fallen history, and grotesque fun with g’s and o’s. With the aid of intertexts ranging from the Book of Revelations to Romantic political philosophy and contemporary literary theory, we will trace Blake’s mythic characters’ attempts to form artistic, erotic, and political community while enmeshed in what the poet called “the Web of Urizen”: the internalized system of moral “virtues” that shored up the national defense, wage-labor exploitation, and colonial slavery in Blake’s era of revolution and reaction.

A focus on Blake opens onto broader problems that animate Romantic-era artworks: the relation between aesthetics and politics, nature and technology, personal and national history, innovation and inherited form. Readings will include Mary Wollstonecraft, Thomas Paine, Edmund Burke, Walter Benjamin, Michel Foucault, Northrop Frye, and W.J.T. Mitchell and a sprinkling of latterday Blakean poets.

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