Hüseyin Alhas examines the impact of contemporary newspapers on Blake’s poetry

Hüseyin Alhas examines the ways in which contemporary newspapers influenced Blake's The French Revolution and The Tyger.

Volume 40, issue 1 of the Journal of Faculty of Letters from Hacettepe University includes an article by Hüseyin Alhas, "The Impact of Newspapers on William Blake’s The French Revolution and 'Tyger'":

This study explores the impact of newspapers on William Blake’s perception of the French Revolution in the light of archival documents. The Revolution is indeed one of the defining events that deeply influenced the poetry of Blake. However, how the poet learned about the course of the events in France and what his sources were have been a matter of debate. Various studies indicated that the poet followed the turbulent events of the Revolution closely through several sources ranging from the political statements of the politicians to the dinner conversations at Joseph Jonson’s, from newspapers to the sophisticated political works of Thomas Paine and Edmund Burke. Among these sources, the newspapers appear to be the most influential source for Blake due to their accessibility and ability to provide a constant flow of information about the events of the Revolution. Accordingly, focusing on Blake’s The French Revolution (1791) and “Tyger” (1792-93) in the light of the original newspaper documents from British archives, this study hypothesises that the impact of the early phases of the French Revolution on William Blake’s poetry was shaped by the newspapers of the period. Furthermore, the newspapers’ representation of the Revolution as an embracing, liberating and pacifist force had direct impact on Blake’s poetry. After 1793, the Revolution entered into a new bloody phase, also known as The Reign of Terror Period, during which many people, including the members of the monarchy, were executed. This new phase posed threat for the British monarchy; therefore, the newspapers of the period started to employ counter-revolutionary discourse. During this period, Blake continued to use newspapers as a source, however, instead of using the content of the columns directly, he subverted the news by attributing positive connotations to the monstrous image of revolution and revolutionaries.

Hüseyin Alhas is Research Assistant, Social Sciences University of Ankara, Faculty of Foreign Languages, Department of English Language and Literature.

This paper is available at the Hacettepe University Journal of Faculty of Letters. (Open Access.)