Matthew Leporati discusses Blake’s epic Milton as missionary against empire

In his new book, Matthew Leporati considers Blake less Prophet than Missionary Against Empire.

Global Blake contributor, Matthew Leporati, has just published his first book, Romantic Epics and the Mission of Empire, which includes a chapter on Blake entitled "‘Mark Well My Words! They Are of Your Eternal Salvation’ William Blake’s Milton As Missionary against Empire":

The seventh chapter studies how Blake’s poem Milton (c.1804) reconceives key aspects of epic tradition as it refigures missionary work as a metaphor for promoting freedom from the limitations of imperial discourse. Showing how literal missionary work can assist empire by holding people in states of subjection, Blake more abstractly repudiates the limitations that Equiano addresses concretely. I argue that Blake locates in the tensions between missionary work and empire the resources to oppose imperialism. While some of Blake’s rhetoric resembles that of actual missionaries and imperialists of his day, I suggest that Blake works from within such orthodox discourses to undermine them. The unresolved contradictions in Blake’s Milton – both in his use of the epic genre and in his appeals to religious and imperial rhetoric – heighten the challenge that he poses to the stable circumscriptions of imperial discourse.

Matthew Leporati is an Associate Professor of English at the College of Mount Saint Vincent. His forthcoming book, Romantic Epics and the Mission of Empire (Cambridge UP), studies the epic revival of the Romantic period in the context of the evangelical turn of British imperialism. Among his scholarly publications are several peer-reviewed articles on William Blake, and he runs a blog on Finnegans Wake (

Romantic Epics and the Mission of Empire is available at the CUP website and other booksellers.