Matthew Leporati Examines the erotic politics of William Blake’s epic poetry

In the latest issue of the European Romantic Review, Leporati examines how Blake's use of Conjugal Love allows him to challenge misogynistic and militaristic ideas of empire.

Volume 34, Issue 4 of the European Romantic Review includes the article "Emanuel Swedenborg’s Conjugial Love and the Erotic Politics of William Blake’s Epics" by Matthew Leporati:

This article argues that Blake draws upon and revises aspects of Swedenborg’s theology, especially the concept of “conjugial love,” to construct an erotic universe that objects to the regressive politics of his age. Situating Milton and Jerusalem in the epic revival of the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, the article argues that Blake’s incorporation and revision of Swedenborgian ideas help him to challenge some forms of misogynistic, militaristic politics that writers of Blake’s day were supporting with appeals to the classical and Miltonic epic traditions. While many Romantic-era writers call upon these traditions to endorse patriarchal oppression, Blake’s deployment of both Swedenborgian concepts and epic tropes allows him to launch a trenchant critique of empire. He revises Swedenborg to extend Milton’s critique of classical epic and, through it, the politics advocated by many of the period’s epic writings. He does so in part by reworking Swedenborg’s doctrines into a vision of eroticism that explodes the hierarchical, misogynistic, chaste conception of sexuality underlying the warrior ethos promoted by the worst aspects of the Romantic-era epic revival.

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 (

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