Speakers and Abstracts

Global Blake 2022: Speakers and Abstracts

The following is the archived programme for the Global Blake conference which ran January 11-13, 2022. Recordings of the proceedings can be viewed at the Global Blake Conference Recordings

Keynote speakers

Linda Freedman - "Figures of Fire and Blood Raging": Blake, Duncan and the Politics of Writing from Myth

In 1968, Allen Ginsberg read William Blake’s ‘I saw a Monk of Charlemaine’ as he stood with the crowds outside the Chicago Democratic Convention to protest against America’s increasingly sinister war in Vietnam. In the same year, Theodore Roszak coined the term ‘counterculture’, bringing his own brand of Blakeanism to the fore. This was a generation in which left-wing American radicals could identify America itself as Satanic – in its imperialism, its capitalism, its racism and its war in Vietnam – but they could also feel America to be vibrantly alive with the radicalism of the arts: the fires of Orc raging against the systems of Urizen. The mantra of cleansed perception resonated with a youth culture desperate to believe in a psychedelic revolution. The literary Blakeanism that exploded in mid twentieth-century America spoke to this mood. But it also articulated sentiments that were more troubling, nuanced and qualified than those allowed by countercultural populism. 

This keynote looks specifically at Robert Duncan’s darker and more secular vision of Blake’s ethical value. Duncan recognised the violence in Blake’s late eighteenth-century visions of America in which terror was as visceral as hope. Duncan saw Blake’s representation of the birth of America as a confused reality of frustrated desire and corrupted ambition, far from an ideal projection of freedom and possibility. In his poem ‘Up-Rising’, Duncan offered Blake’s America: A Prophecy as a way of reflecting on the monstrous violence in Vietnam. He compared ‘the mania, the ravening eagle of America’ to Blake’s image of America ‘in figures of fire and blood raging’. But he followed this with a question: ‘… in what image?’ as if Blake’s vision of fiery outrage could not fully embody the horror of an America grown so fat on its own despotic idea of democracy that its ‘ravening eagle’ knew no bounds and could not satiate its insane hunger for human flesh. For Duncan, Blake’s ‘figures’ prophesied the terrible history of American violence. But they also represented the high political stakes – the scope and limitations - of the mythopoeic imagination to which he also laid claim. 

While Duncan learned much from Blake, he created works that look very different. He saw this as a great point of divergence, claiming: ‘I’m very different from Blake in my poetry, absolutely the antithesis of Blake who wants it light … I love Rembrandt with his dark, deep, study of the dark.’ Duncan’s response to Blake set complicity with violence and the ethics of intimacy and difference above the promise of divine revelation. In these respects, this paper argues, Duncan achieved something critical in the modernisation and Americanisation of Blake’s works.

Linda Freedman is Associate Professor of English and American literature at UCL. She teaches literature from both sides of the Atlantic, from the Romantic period to the mid twentieth century and publishes widely on the relationship between literature, theology and the visual arts. She is the author of Emily Dickinson and the Religious Imagination (CUP 2011), William Blake and the Myth of America: from the Abolitionists to the Counterculture (OUP 2018) and is currently working on a new book, entitled The Myth of the Fall and the Shaping of Modern Western Culture.

Stephen F. Eisenman - Blake and Abolitionism

That William Blake was sympathetic to abolitionism has long been recognized. Words and images from Songs of Innocence and Experience, America, a Prophesy and Visions of the Daughters of Albion, among other texts are frequently cited in evidence. But to call Blake an abolitionist in the usual sense is mistaken. First because he rejected any rights-based justification for emancipation. To liberate men and women from chattel slavery into a regime dominated by oppressive law and reason would be to consign them to a new prison. And second because Blake wished to extend emancipation to non-human animals and indeed the earth itself.  Fully sentient beings including sheep, frogs, flies, larks, dogs, worms, elephants, clouds, lilies, pebbles and clods of earth, are found everywhere in Blake’s work. Even the most fundamental among them possess the capacity for universal being and the desire to “bind another to its delight.” 

Blake’s animism is partly derived from popular, dissenting thought of the previous century: the sermons and speeches of antinomians, Levellers, Seekers, Ranters, and Quakers. It also drew upon elite thought, including the work of George Berkeley, David Hartley and Joseph Ritson. But of greater interest here is the fact that it both anticipated, and helped pave the way for modern, non-rights based theories and practices of liberation, including prison abolitionism, liberation theology, Buddhist environmental ethics, the Gaia theory, eco-feminism, deep ecology, nations without borders, and animal abolitionism, the latter being the idea that there is no morally relevant distinction between human and non-human animals, and that all exploitation of the latter must be ended. The Earth itself, in addition to its creatures, Blake writes in Songs of Experience, is “prison’d” until it can “break this heavy chain” and be emancipated by “free Love” and the anti-capitalist principle, found in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, that “the most sublime act is to set another before you.”

Stephen F. Eisenman is the curator of the exhibition William Blake and the Age of Aquarius, and the main author and editor of the accompanying book. (Princeton University Press, 2017)

Mike Goode - Viral Blake

While the global circulation of lines and images from Blake’s innovative multi-media art has received a fair amount of scholarly attention recently, the most circulated Blake line globally was never a part of that art, surviving to us only as a fair copy in a manuscript whose contents were never published in Blake’s lifetime. My talk looks at the frequent citation today of the opening lines of Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence,” and especially their call on us “To see the world in a grain of sand.” How and why did this piece of Blake’s corpus break free and end up circulating so spectacularly? What, if anything, might this extract and its circulation tell us about Blake, or about the media ecology in which he worked, that we haven’t learned already from studying the virality of other bits and pieces of Blake’s corpus? Building on – and complicating – claims I have made in the past about the insights that the viral circulation of Blake’s proverbs and pictures in contemporary culture might afford into Blake’s artistic project, my lecture touches on everything from the evidence of anthologies and Frankenstein to Google Ngrams and computer viruses.

Mike Goode is Professor of English at Syracuse University, where he teaches course on British Romanticism, media, ecocriticism, and the history of the novel. His book Romantic Capabilities: Blake, Scott, Austen, and the New Messages of Old Media was published by Oxford University Press in 2020, and his book Sentimental Masculinity and the Rise of History was published by Cambridge University Press in 2009. His articles and book chapters have appeared in a variety of journals, including Representations, ELH, Textual Practice, Romantic Circles, and PMLA.

Luisa Calè - The Mental Traveller, Italy 1977: Corrado Costa’s revolutionary psychoerotic comic strip William Blake in Beulah

This talk explores the visual adaptation of Blake’s “The Mental Traveller” into William Blake in Beulah: Saggio Visionario su un Poeta a Fumetti, a “visionary comic strip essay” published in Italian in 1977 by lawyer, poet and artist Corrado Costa (1929-1991). Costa’s Blake contributes to a polymorphous, libertine Blake canon. While Mario Praz had read Blake through de Sade and Swinburne in 1930, reading Blake with Sade in the 1970s, as Costa does, activates a different libertine hermeneutics. I will first analyze Costa’s Blake comic-strip in relation to his “critique of sexual reason” in Inferno Provvisorio (Provisional Hell, 1970), and to La Sadisfazione letteraria (Literary Sade-sfaction, 1976). Secondly, I will work out the ways of reading associated with the publisher of Blake in Beulah, Squi/Libri, which literally means “Imbalances”, playing with the words “libri” (“books”) and “squilibrati” (“unbalanced people”). Within the Squi/libri imprint Blake in Beulah joins books about different forms of revolutionary action and ideological critique that consider power in terms of the erotic dynamics of domination. These interpretive frames will inform my visual analysis of Costa’s intervention on Blake’s “The Mental Traveller”.

Costa’s visual adaptation uses the translations of Giuseppe Ungaretti and tests his idea of translation as a laboratory that opens up alternatives to traditional metrical forms. In translating Blake’s corpus into a visionary cartoon essay, Costa’s comic-strip method draws on William Burrough’s cut-up technique as practised in the typographical collage aesthetics of radical 1970s publications. To adapt Blake’s corpus as a series of comic-strip captions is to fragment sentences into “word-picnics”. By spacing out and repeating excerpts from Jerusalem, The French Revolution and A Song of Liberty, Costa deconstructs meter, breaks through the order of discourse controlled by syntax, and disrupts linear narrative and common sense. By contrast, “The Mental Traveller” is the only Blake work that Costa reproduces in full, because he claims that it discloses the “deep structures” of Blake’s corpus. Through an analysis of the visual styles used in adapting Blake’s ballad into comic form, including filmic techniques such as montage editing, extreme body-part close-ups alternated with long shots, and allusions to the erotic idiom of Guido Crepax and others, I will demonstrate how Costa’s visual language represents the contradictions of reading Blake through anti-capitalist ways of seeing and the bourgeois aesthetics of Italian adult comics.

Luisa Calè is Reader in Romantic and Nineteenth-Century Literature and Visual Culture at Birkbeck, University of London. She works on the visual and material cultures of literature in the Romantic Period, practices of reading, viewing, and collecting that dismantle the book and question its function as a support for reading, and on critical disciplinarity. She has published on how literature is reinvented through galleries of pictures; the visual reinvention of Dante's Commedia; William Blake and his reception in Italy; altered editions of Shakespeare, Walpole, Blake, and Dickens; and arguing for a hybrid history of the book that subverts distinctions between book parts and artworks.

Harriet Stubbs

Harriet Stubbs is a brilliant pianist. She was voted one of the top three pianists in Britain by Julian Lloyd Webber on ITV’s ‘Britain’s Brilliant Progenies’. Harriet started playing the piano at the age of three — at the age of five she won a full scholarship from the Elsie and Leonard Cross Memorial Foundation to the Guildhall School of Music. At the age of eight she was invited to play at the Blackheath International Piano Festival. She has given solo recitals ever since and all over the world. She has also collaborated and performed with other leading musicians. She is a voting member of the New York Chapter of the Recording Academy and an artist for the T. J. Martell foundation. It was Blake who inspired her debut album Heaven and Hell: The Doors Of Perception (2019)


Alexander Abichou - Textual Spirituality and Analogical Imagination: A transhistorical investigation of William Blake and Ibn Arabi’s mysticism

This paper conducts a comparative analysis of William Blake and Ibn Arabi (an Andalusian mystic) as a means of examining the shared discourse found in the latter’s Islamic esoteric theology and the former’s antinomian and poetic reading of Christian scripture and in turn, question what must follow once you adopt this kind of universalising spirituality (where the Divine Word and the eternal body of Man is intertwined) as a starting point and to what extent their commonalities indicate that there are certain outcomes that follow from mystical assumptions. The main points of convergence that I explore within this cross-cultural analysis includes: the role of a theophanic imagination in spiritual realisation, the necessity for mortality in redemption (i.e. embodiedness or form as key components of artistic perception), the spirit of prophecy as propelled through dialectical contraries and how the logos signals an ongoing conversational warfare amongst emotionally expansive interlocutors. This study most closely follows the analytical ethos of Robert J. Dobie’s comparison between Ibn Arabi and Meister Eckhart in highlighting how their ‘trans-traditional affinities’ are not simply ‘historical borrowings’ but an extension of their creative exploration of scripture which results in them partaking in, a ‘mystical understanding and appropriation of revelation [that often] demands, parallel and even identical hermeneutical and metaphysical moves on the part of the mystical writer’.

Alexander Abichou has recently completed his PhD on Percy Bysshe Shelley and Islam at Durham University and is currently transforming the paper being presented into a journal article. Both projects aim to deepen the discourse surrounding the faith within Romantic Orientalism by recognising either side as possessing a rich intellectual tradition.

Camille Adnot - “Blake le Voyant:” The lasting impact of the French Surrealists’ reading of Blake

Little known in France before the 1920s, Blake gained visibility during that decade thanks to the writings of André Gide and Philippe Soupault (cofounder of the Surrealist movement). His popularity experienced a steep rise after World War 2, in the 1940s and 1950s, thanks to the interest of intellectual figures such as André Breton, Jacques Prévert and Georges Bataille. As Cécile Mansanti writes in the catalogue to the 2009 Blake exhibition in Paris, Blake became “a classic” in France over that time-period. Yet it remains to be addressed what particular kind of classic Blake was turned into; in the same catalogue, Peter France observes that “Mad Blake” became “a central figure in the French pantheon of anglophone poets.” Indeed, “Mad Blake” is an epithet used in the first paragraph of Soupault’s 1928 monograph; in Literature and Evil (1957), Bataille addresses the myth of “Blake le Voyant,” stating that Blake’s “wisdom was close to madness.” This paper aims at demonstrating how French Blake enthusiasts of that era propagated a version of Blake quite different from its English counterpart. The Surrealists’ Blake is in turn mad or maleficent, both a prophet and a freethinker. Soupault paired Blake with Edgar Allan Poe; Gide called him a “Radiant Lucifer” and compared him to Nietzsche and Lautréamont; Jean Wahl also likened him to Nietzsche, but more importantly to Rimbaud. The Surrealists de-anglicised Blake, claiming him as a forefather and assimilating him into the French pantheon. They favoured the Blake of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, which they celebrated for its anticlerical statements and visionary power – aspects which they emphasised in their translations. I wish to highlight the biases behind their reception of Blake, and the way they still shape the French perception of Blake today.

Camille Adnot is a third-year PhD student at Université de Paris, where she teaches English. Her research focuses on the aesthetics of disorder in the illuminated poetry of William Blake. She is a member of BARS, IAWIS, and SERA. Her research interests include long 19th century poetry and art, text materiality, and the interplay of text and image.

Tanja Bakic - Example from a Serbian Blog: From A Poison Tree to A Poison Fruit, or Producing Literary Meanings

A short post featuring only a translation of Blake’s poem “A Poison Tree”, with the title given in the Serbian translation as “A Poison Fruit”, was showcased in October 2014 on a blog on the Serbian information portal B92. The post was very popular and talked-about online more because the translated title moved away from the Blake’s original title. Our hypothesis is that such a move in the translation from Blake’s original message implies its different behaviour within the Serbian contemporary online media space. Our purpose is to define why the Serbian receptor-language translator, himself a medical doctor and not a professional translator or writer, decided to translate that poem by Blake, and to observe how the translation behaves on the blog, managing to achieve intense reactions from the post’s followers. In such an attempt we will be sensitive towards textual studies, fandom studies and media theories. Our conclusion will point towards the Serbian receptor-language translator producing new literary meanings.

Tanja Bakic is a published poet and translator from Montenegro. She is pursuing her PhD thesis on William Blake.

Franca Bellarsi - From Blake to Buddha, Biology, and Beyond: the Renewal of ‘Prophetic Labour’ amidst the Beats and Affiliates

Because of his epiphanic experience triggered by the Songs in 1948, it is Allen Ginsberg who, within the Beat circle, has seen his name most readily associated with Blake’s legacy. However, even if not all Beat affiliates have been as vocal about their connection to Blake, it is not only over Ginsberg’s own renewal of “prophetic labour” in today’s world that Blake has loomed large, but also over that of the broader experimental Beat community as a whole and over some of its contemporary inheritors. My contribution will not exhaustively dwell on a single case study, privileging a survey-style approach instead to suggest the diversity of Blake’s influence on the Beat-inflected road of neo-shamanic questing. Moving from first-generation Beat figures in the U.S. to some of their contemporary descendants abroad, my paper will review different attempts to revisit “prophetic labour” and the expansion of consciousness associated with it.

Starting with Ginsberg in late maturity, I will use one or two examples of how as a fully committed Buddhist, he sought to read the Songs through the lens of the non-dualistic, non-theistic space of Buddhist Emptiness. To illustrate a different type of challenge to conventional dualism, I will then highlight how Michael McClure’s ecopoetics of “mammal patriotism” abolishes commonly accepted hierarchies between organisms and thereby develops a “muscular imagination” that modernizes Blake’s belief that “Energy is the only life and is from the body.” Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s collection of aphorisms, Poetry as An Insurgent Art, offers a different type of “prophetic labour” still, one simultaneously updating Blake’s “Proverbs of Hell” and Lacoön.

In its last third, my survey will shift from core Beat figures to countercultural affiliates past and present, starting with American painter and sculptor Jay DeFeo. Her Blake-inspired The Rose offers an example of “prophetic labour” in the shape of a monumental sculpture that renews Blakean craftsmanship and its very physical engagement with both energy and the materials of art making. To close, I will briefly touch on two examples of “prophetic labour” performed by Beat-affiliated figures outside the U.S: the Belgo-Italian neo-shamanic cartoon thriller, La Face cachée de la Ville, by David Giannoni and Daniele Bacci, on the one hand, and on the other, the Vala-inspired, dream-like hallucinated poetry of Frenchman Tom Buron.

Franca Bellarsi (Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium) equally divides her research between the Beat Generation, ecocriticism and ecopoetics, and English Romanticism. To date, she has written a variety of articles on the Beats—including but not limited to their debts to European Romanticism—and guest-edited four special issues in the field of ecocriticism (one in co-edition with Judith Rauscher). With the research assistance of Gregory Watson, she authored the chapter on Belgium to The Reception of William Blake in Europe (2019). She also convened the 4th Annual Meeting of the European Beat Studies Network in Brussels in 2015.

Eliza Borkowska - Polish Blake: „William Blake: Dzieła zebrane (wydanie krytyczne)”

This paper will present details of a project (a grant proposal submitted to the Polish Ministry of Science) whose overall aim is effective and long-lasting promotion and popularization of William Blake in Poland. A large part of this project is a translation of the complete works of Blake into the Polish language and their publication in the form of a critical edition in four volumes: I will describe the conception of each of the volumes (including the visual component), the character and range of the editorial apparatus and critical commentary, as well as the logic and dynamics of the publication process. Other important elements of this project include: a) the creation of an interactive web-page, which will offer, among other things, glimpses of the translatorial work in progress and the translators’ commentary, but is also meant to become a platform of communication and exchange of ideas with our future readers; b) setting to music a selection of Polish translations (these will be the first ever attempts to sing Polish Blake/Blake in Polish): I will talk about the process of transforming a poetic translation into a translated lyric as well as, more generally, about the promotional role of music in this project (for example, how it may support the process of the publication of each of the four volumes); c) the organization of a Polish-language transdisciplinary conference, featuring, among other people, Polish artists whose works have been inspired by Blake (including Olga Tokarczuk and the film director Agnieszka Holland); d) the organization of an English-language conference Translating Blake: my presentation of the idea and range of this conference (co-organized by Sibylle Erle) will be simultaneously an invitation to this event, which may perhaps be of interest to a number of participants of Global Blake: Afterlives in Art, Literature and Music.

Eliza Borkowska (https://www.elizaborkowska.com/), Associate Professor of Literature at SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Warsaw; the author of But He Talked of the Temple of Man’s Body: Blake’s Revelation Un-Locked (CSP 2009) and two monographs on Wordsworth published simultaneously in 2020 by Routledge; contributor to Bloomsbury’s The Reception of William Blake in Europe (2019); co-translator of Blake’s Jerusalem into Polish

Claire Broome Saunders - “Wild glances of the poetical faculty”: Blake’s afterlives in illustrations for EBB's Sonnets

In 1892 Phoebe Anna Traquair embarked upon an ambitious and intricate project to illustrate Elizabeth  Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese, eventually completing the work in January 1897. Throughout her long artistic career, Traquair's main creative purpose was to celebrate the potential of  the human mind and spirit. It is therefore not surprising that she valued William Blake's poetry and art  as inspirational, using his illustrations repeatedly as sources for her illuminations and murals. More  striking, however, are the connections that Traquair's illustrations expose between Blake's work and  EBB's sonnet sequence: Traquair recognises and elucidates the visionary and ground-breaking poetics  of EBB's work, at a time when critics generally assessed Sonnets only as an outpouring of love for a  poet-husband.

Using Traquair's illustrations for Sonnets from the Portuguese as a starting point, this paper will explore  the ways in which EBB develops and refines Blake's celebration of excessive vision. There are many  obvious connections between the two writers: they were shaped by similar Dissenting contexts, not  least the ways in which EBB draws on Blake's social critique, in works like “The Cry of the Children”.  EBB quotes from Blake widely in her correspondence, and records occasions when she had discussed  Blake's work and philosophy with visitors. Both writers are skillful and politically-driven medievalists:  like Blake's illustrations of Chaucer and Dante, EBB's adaptations of medieval texts and forms offer  rich social commentary and glimpses of her own original artistic vision, which is so vividly illuminated  in Traquair's innovative illustrations.

Dr Clare Broome Saunders is the Senior Tutor at Blackfriars Hall, and Lecturer in English at St Cath erine’s College, University of Oxford. Her research interests include women's poetry, uses of history,  and European travel writers, as reflected in her recent publications: Louisa Stuart Costello: A 19th Century Writing Life (2015); Women, Travel Writing, and Truth (2014); and Women Writers and Nine teenth-Century Medievalism (2009).

Steve Clark - Blake’s Asia, Asia’s Blake

Asia, the second section of The Song of Los, tends to be passed over even by specialist studies of the Lambeth Books, in favour of the more confrontational America and Europe, and the cosmological speculation of The [First] Book of Urizen, which prefigures Blake’s later proliferation of mythologies. In this presentation, I wish firstly to reconstruct the prophecy’s geographical specificity: it is notable that the Tate facsimile do not contain a single annotation on Asia itself while offering copious notes on biblical allusion, Paineinte radicalism and comparative mythology. (Kathleen Raine is cited Brahma’s ‘abstract philosophy’ to William Jones out that reference (292) occurs in Africa (line 11). I would suggest that ‘the kings of Asia’, rather than invoke the familiar stereotype of oriental despotism, is directed at the officials of the East India Company, who ‘invent allegoric riches’ (Sir Matthew Mite in Samuel Foote’s play The Nabob claims that the ‘riches possess magical power to conceal their source.’ The ‘call for Famine’ (6.9) refers to mass starvation in Bengal during the early 1770s (estimated death toll 7-10 million), which led Parliament to investigate Robert Clive and remained a live issue in the prosecution of Warren Hastings (still in progress during Asia’s year of composition (1795)). Secondly, I will examine the extent to which a ‘Prophet against Empire’ inevitably remains complicit with that imperial regime. Blake is perhaps a more Virgilian poet than usually assumed: if ‘Urizen wept’ (7.42), it is lacrimae rerum that all things are falling (illustrated in the frontispiece of a prostrate figure before a ‘dark globe’). Thirdly, using as a starting-point recent emphasis on the indebtedness of Romanticism to non-European traditions, I wish to propose that recent definitions of World Literature (Damrosch, Casanova), which perpetuate and reinforce the dominance of the Western academy, may be challenged by ‘Global Blake’, whose paradoxical worldliness includes a powerful Asian dimension.

Steve Clark is Visiting Professor at the Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology, University of Tokyo. He has co-edited Historicizing Blake (1990), Blake in the Nineties (1999) and Blake, Nation and Empire (2006) with David Worrall, The Reception of Blake in the Orient (2006) with Masashi Suzuki, Blake, Modernity and Popular Culture (2007) with Jason Whittaker, and Blake 2.0 (2012) with Tristanne  Connolly and Whittaker. His most recent publications are Asian English, co-edited with Myles Chilton and Yukari Yoshihara, and Robinson Crusoe in Asia, co-edited with Yoshihara (both 2021).

Suellen Cordovil da Silva .- William Blake, A Ghost of a Flea and Visions of the Daughters of Albion in From Hell

The graphic novel From Hell was written by Alan Moore, illustrated by Eddie Campbell and originally published in serial comic magazines between 1989 and 1996 in Taboo magazine, as well as being published in a single-issue format by Eddie Campbell Comics in 1999. Moore develops a creative work from the arts of William Blake for comics: thus, the works of the two authors in dialogue allow readers to observe this procedure of recovering the signs of William Blake’s works by Moore and Eddie Campbell. To develop this understanding of graphic novels, I use some reflections of Groensteen (2007), Barbieri (2017) and Postema (2018) and others to explore two topics. In the first, I present the two authors and their works from the perspective of the concept of From Hell. In the second, I analyze the graphic novel itself, exemplifying the references to the author William Blake as a character inserted in the work and through his biography. Then, I present the creative process of the A ghost of a flea and Visions of the Daughters of Albion by William Blake as examples that reverberate in From Hell’s graphic story, and so help to explain this creative project by Alan Moore. This interdisciplinarity in the works of Blake composes some links between the visual and the textual that attracts several artists to look at their illuminated engravings, as it will be exposed in the work of Alan Moore.

Suellen Cordovil da Silva has a Ph.D. in Letters from the Federal University of Santa Maria (UFSM) in relation to the works of William Blake and Alan Moore. She studies at the University of Northampton (UON) and interviewed Alan Moore for her thesis. She has been an effective English Language and Literature Professor since July 2014 at the Federal University of the South and Southeast of Pará (Unifesspa) based in the city of Marabá/ State Pará/ Country Brazil.

Alcinda Pinheiro de Sousa - Visual Blake in Brazil: In Memoriam Donald Ault

In 1974, Ault published Visionary Physics: Blake’s Response to Newton, a cause of perplexity to the community of Blake scholars. The following year, David Erdman did actually declare about Visionary Physics: ‘Once again a painstaking investigation of some difficult aspect of Blake's work and of his thought rescues us from the temptation to assume that whatever is not clear to our minds was woolly nonsense in Blake's’ (Blake/An Illustrated Quarterly, 8.4, my emphases). And in 1977, David Wagenknecht regarded it as: ‘[...] a remarkable, perhaps excessively remarkable book [...]’ (Modern Philology, 74.4, my emphasis). In 1987, Ault published Narrative Unbound: Re-Visioning William Blake’s ‘The Four Zoas’, his second, and particularly ingenious work on Blake, considered by Andrew Lincoln: ‘[...] the most impressive study of The Four Zoas, Donald Ault’s formidable Narrative Unbound [...]’. (Spiritual History: A Reading of William Blake's Vala, Or The Four Zoas, 1995, my emphases). Although recognising the centrality of the verbal|visual interaction in The Four Zoas, Ault decided (for methodological reasons and because his was already a lengthy study) to exclude such a question from the investigation. Nevertheless, A Postscript on The Four Zoas as Visual Text was added to the book and, in a note to the Preliminary Remarks, he explained: ‘[...] I have been working for several years with the relations existing between verbal and visual dimensions in very different media, especially animated cartoons, comic strips, and comic books. Some of my essays on verbal/visual relations in Carl Barks’ Donald Duck comic book stories [...] may eventually be applied to Blake as well [...]’. Once again, I come upon Ault’s research, now considered a ‘pioneer of popular culture scholarship’ (Brendan Riley, “Textual Criticism of Popular Culture”, A Companion to Popular Culture, 2016). Thus, from the vantage point of a dynamic interface of Blake Studies with Reception, Visual Culture and Popular Culture Studies, I will observe Enéias Tavares and Fred Rubim’s O Matrimônio de Céu & Inferno, a Brazilian graphic novel published in 2019.

Alcinda Pinheiro de Sousa, a Doctor of English Literature awarded by Faculdade de Letras, Universidade de Lisboa – with the thesis titled As the Eye - Such the Object”: Da Arte e da Ciência em (On Art and Science in) William Blake – is currently leading the University of Lisbon Centre for English Studies research project Receiving|Perceiving English Literature in the Digital Age. She has taught, researched and published in the fields of literary and visual culture studies. Recently, Pinheiro de Sousa co- authored ‘“Enough! or Too much”: The Reception of Blake in Portugal’, a chapter of The Reception of William Blake in Europe, eds. Morton D. Paley and Sibylle Erle (Bloomsbury; 2019), and “Portuguese Readings of William Blake: Fernando Pessoa, a National Poet, and Três Tristes Tigres, a Pop-Rock Band” for the special issue on Blake’s reception to be published by Blake/An Illustrated Quarterly.

Elizabeth Effinger - Queer Family Resemblances: Between Joel-Peter Witkin and William Blake

This paper probes the fleshy folds that associatively link the bodies — visual and textual— of William Blake and contemporary American photographer, Joel-Peter Witkin. Witkin is infamous for his constructed Gothic photographs that feature unlikely subjects: including dismembered corpses, transgender, intersex, animal hybrid, obese and disabled bodies. While most frequently compared to fellow grotesque photographers, such as Diane Arbus and Cindy Sherman, Witkin’s gothic eye also strains at much more classical targets. Indeed, Witkin is in a much longer conversation with painters and artists, including Diego Velázquez (of Las Meninas fame), Sandro Botticelli (Witkin’s Gods of Earth and Heaven revises Botticelli’s Birth of Venus with a pre-op transsexual as Venus), Francisco de Goya (Witkin’s Manuel Osorio replaces the royal child with a small monkey), and William Blake.

In 2004, Witkin published two rich collections of staged photographs titled Songs of Innocence and Experience, in clear homage to Blake. In this text, Blake’s poetry from the titular text is set alongside Witkin’s photographs, the latter of which bear little resemblance to Blake’s own work, at least on first blush. But is Blake more than Witkin’s dark Muse? In what follows, I offer a tableaux of my own — a series of close readings of select Witkin’s images from this seldom-studied collection read with and against Blake’s illuminated Songs. How do Witkin’s formal choices also re-organ-ize Blake’s body? Ultimately, I argue there is what we can call a queer “family resemblance” (to riff on Wittgenstein’s phrase) between the two texts, and Blake and Witkin converge in Songs in what might be thought of as a queer family album.

Elizabeth Effinger teaches eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British literature at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton (Canada). Her special interests are in William Blake, the intersections of Romantic arts and sciences, the Anthropocene, the Gothic, and human-animal studies. She co-edited William Blake’s Gothic Imagination: Bodies of Horror (Manchester University Press, 2018).

Adriano Ercolani - The Influence of William Blake on Pop Culture

My paper argues that the great fascination of William Blake’s philosophy, and works, deeply influenced highly prominent figures of contemporary pop culture. From Aldous Huxley to Jim Morrison, Bob Dylan to Alan Moore, Allen Ginsberg to Patti Smith, Aleister Crowley to U2, William Blake has been a huge source of inspiration. 

I believe that it is necessary to discard a certain deformation of his message by which Blake may seem as some sort of satanist prophet by shining light on a deeper philosophical awareness of his poetical vision. Firstly, I would like to show how Aleister Crowley’s misinterpretations led to a general misunderstanding of Blake’s works and thoughts, which are too complex to be reduced to an occultist stereotype. Subsequently, I would like to underline the differences between the shallow fascination of Blake’s figure, that we can meet in Jim Morrison’s lyrics, and the constant reference to his poetry found in Bob Dylan’s songs (i.e. Gates of Eden and Every Grain of Sand) and Alan Moore’s work (i.e. From Hell, Jerusalem and Watchmen). Those are just examples of two ways of approaching the figure of William Blake. 

So, on one side we can find a series of just skin-deep quotes (i.e. the Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience by the rock band U2),  whereas on the other hand a much more interesting legacy of his cultural research, as in Aldous Huxley and William Butler Yeats. The aim of my dissertation is to show how, in both ways, William Blake is one of the most influential figures of modern western culture.

Adriano Ercolani is an italian critic, who regularly publishes articles on some of the most followed Italian cultural reviews and websites: Repubblica XL, Il Fatto Quotidiano online, Linus, Globalist, minima&moralia and many others. He has published many articles about William Blake’s works, and organized the cultural event “Blake in Rome” in 2016.

Marta Fabi - “You are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind”. Tracking down William Blake’s wor(l)ds into The Matrix.

Studies exploring the reception and the influence of William Blake in the fields of music, cinema, graphic novels, culture and arts in general have been flourishing over the years.  These studies confirm the penetration of Blake’s works and thoughts within different eras and media together with a reinterpretation of his ideas and intentions, defined as Blakean otherness by Clark, Connolly and Whittaker (2012). Moving from the poems’ flexibility and power of moulding into new forms of art, this paper sets out to track down echoes of Blakean works in the film The Matrix (1999). The film is open to infinite interpretations as it presents «many layers of intertextuality» (Gordon, 2003) that account to philosophical, historical, mythological and cultural sources, to which Blake had drawn on all the same. Furthermore, the works of William Blake as well as The Matrix’s screenplay have their foundation in the making of a “New Mythology” (Gordon, 2003). Blake’s system as well as the film’s plot unfold and display new myths - forged through the reinterpretation of old ones - aimed at depicting and communicating “reality” through art. Accordingly, I will examine the role of the filmic dream world, as opposed to the real world, since it appears to overlap the dream of Albion in Blake’s Vala, depicting a world of imagination that needs to be recovered. Moreover, I will track the striking parallels between the world of the machines in the film, who took control over the human beings, and the grey, enslaving, totalitarian universe made up by Urizen within Blake’s system. Lastly, I will analyse the role of Neo as “the One” who will liberate humanity from its mind-forged manacles. The character’s evolution will be put alongside the transformation of Orc into Luvah/Jesus. Namely, Neo and Orc take on revolution first and grow later into an intellectual battle to grasp the real essence of reality, - the real nature of the Matrix- learning to see through the eyes, not with them.

Marta Fabi is currently a PhD candidate in “Comparative Studies” - University of Rome “Tor Vergata”. She received a M.A. in Modern Languages and Literatures and has been working as a secondary school English teacher for more than a decade. Her thesis focus is on the rewriting of the Golden Age myth in William Blake’s works of the 1790s.  Her research interests are: Blake, Romanticism, ESL.

Eugenie Freed - Blake in Nieu Bethesda

Helen Martins was born and lived in the remote village of Nieu Bethesda, in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa.  Following the deaths of her parents, for whom she had been caring, she devoted the remaining thirty years of her life to filling her house and garden with sculptures and paintings.  When threatened by blindness, she committed suicide in 1976.  The Martins house is now a museum, its “Outsider Art” (“Art Brut”) attracting thousands of visitors annually. Virtually all the sculptures in Helen’s house and yard were created by others, under her direction.  The last and most successful of her assistants was Koos Malgas, whose previous experience in the building trade enabled him to re-create in cement the images she showed him, from books, post-cards, and her own sketches. 

Helen took up several themes in the art-works she vicariously created.  The Bible was a frequent source of inspiration, as was Edward Fitzgerald’s 19th-century translation of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.  Another influence, often noted in connection with Helen’s creations but never explored before, is that of William Blake. In Helen Martins’ yard there are three copies in cement of Blake’s images. Two are from “For the Sexes:  The Gates of Paradise” (1818) ; the third is a detail from illustrations to Milton’s Paradise Lost (1808). In this paper I hope to look into the significance of the Blake images in Nieu Bethesda, and to suggest why they were meaningful to Helen Martins.

Eugenie Freed, who taught for many years at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, has published on medieval and Renaissance topics as well as William Blake.  Her monograph  A Portion of His Life:  William Blake’s Miltonic Vision of Woman appeared in 1994.

Jonathan Gross - Blake’s influence on Orozco: Prophecy, Mexican Murals, and NYC Graffiti

My essay argues for Blake’s influence on Jose Clemente Orozco’s “The Gods of the Modern World”, panel 17 of his mural "The Epic of American Civilization” (1934). This Dartmouth college mural reflects Blakean themes of the limits of Newtonian and Urizenic knowledge by depicting a woman giving birth to a stillborn child on a pile of books, as menacing academic figures look on.  By discussing racial themes and the slave trade in such works as America: A Prophecy. William Blake anticipated Orozco’s mural.  Orozco also influenced the abstract expressionism of Jackson Pollock, that quintessential American artist, who traveled to Dartmouth College to view Orozco’s mural in 1936.  I close by considering graffiti trains in New York city, especially hand ball courts by Lee Quinones (Lee) and “The Death of Graffiti” (1982) by Sandra Fabara  as Blakean expressions of artistic self-determination in an increasingly homogenized world. I argue that Blake’s hand-written poems, engraved on copper, anticipate NYC experiments in fonts such as wildstyle, which turned technology into a “museum on wheels”.

Using Blake’s “London” as my guide, I argue for William Blake as a prophet, anticipating the late 20th century artist’s confrontation with the mind-forged manacles of government.  Compare Orozco’s “The Departure of Quetzalcoatl” and Blake’s ”The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins”, for example. In both works, robed figures point towards the future, recalling the Book of Daniel. “In`The Departure of Quetzalcoatl’ panel,” Mary Coffey argues, “Orozco models the Toltecan god after Christian prototypes drawn from European artists, such as Michelangelo’s depiction of God the Father on the Sistine ceiling or the less well known images of Moses and Job drawn by William Blake” (27).  Coffey ties together the themes I explore in my paper, comparing Blake’s working-class radicalism with the anarcho-syndicalism of Orozco. Alejandro Andreus’ Orozco in Gringoland: The Years in New York goes so far as to trace Orozco’s fresco “Omniciencia” (1925) to Blake, who was “much admired among theistic anarchists”.

Jonathan Gross is Professor in the Department of English at DePaul University and Joint-President of the Byron Society.  He is the author of Byron: the Erotic Liberal (Rowman, 2001) and the Life of Anne Damer (Rowman, 2012), and editor of Byron’s Corbeau Blanc: the Life and Letters of Lady Melbourne (Rice U P, 1997), Thomas Jefferson’s Scrapbooks (Steerforth, 2006), Emma, or the Unfortunate Attachment (SUNY), The Sylph (Northwestern), and Belmour (Northwestern).  His essays have appeared in Philological Quarterly, Studies in English Literature, and the Wilson Quarterly. A former Director of the Humanities Center at DePaul (2007-2012), he received a Fulbright to teach at Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, Greece in 2014.  He has won fellowships at the American Antiquarian Society, the Lewis Walpole library at Yale, and the Virginia Foundation in the Humanities.  He has lectured on poetry in London, Gdansk, Athens, and Prague, among other cities, and has also released a CD with Brilliance Audio, entitled “The Harlem Renaissance Remembered.”  His play, “Graffiti Kings”, was performed at Stage 773 (2019) and at the Old Town School of Folk Music  (2015).

Mark Lussier - Blake at the Event Horizon: Strange Attractors, Visionary Physics, and Quantum Consciousness

In three prior works, I have explored the presence of Blake in popular works of theoretical physics, whether as ‘illustrator’ of the future of physics (in the case of the frontispiece to Europe, A Prophecy or the painting Newton) or a poet capable of offering visionary language appropriate for the new physics of relativity and quantum (in the case of the vortex in Milton or the wormholes at work in the gates of Jerusalem).1 The ‘Blakespotting’ pursued in those prior projects primarily located the evocation of “Blake” and analyzed the ‘use’ made of him and his works by writers striving to describe physical events after the emergence of relativity effects, quantum dynamics, and protocols of chaos. Such allusions render Blake a “strange attractor” (Hawkins 7), and given the continued—and ever expanding—citational presence of Blake by those who elaborate current understanding of the “entanglements” (Barad 247) that defines inner and outer “events” (Badiou 137), my paper undertakes a renewed exploration of precisely how and why a quirky, perhaps crazy, and certainly heretical Christian painter and poet at the end of the eighteenth century could offer a visionary physics conversant with the most exotic conceptions in contemporary physical theory.

1. In chronological order: “Blake's Vortex: The Quantum Tunnel in Milton,” Nineteenth-Century Contexts 18.3 (Fall 1994), 263-91; Romantic Dynamics: The Poetics of Physicality. New York & London: St. Martins & Macmillan (2000), and “Blake and Science Studies,” Palgrave Advances: William Blake Studies, Nicholas Williams, ed. London: Palgrave (2006), 186-213.

Works cited: 

Badiou, Alain. Infinite Thought: Truth and the Return to Philosophy. London & New York: Continuum, 2005. 

Barad, Karen. Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham & London: Duke UP, 2007. 

Hawkins, Harriet. Strange Attractors: Literature, Culture and Chaos Theory. New York et al.: Prentice Hall, 1995.

Mark Lussier is Emeritus Professor of English and Sustainability at Arizona State University. His monographs include Romantic Dynamics: The Poetics of Physicality (1999) and Romantic Dharma: The Emergence of Buddhism into Nineteenth Century Europe (2011). He has edited or co-edited Reading Blake/Blake Reading (1986), Feminist Literary Theory and Politics (1986), Perspective as a Problem in the Art, History and Literature of Early Modern Europe (1994), Romanticism and Buddhism (2006), and Engaged Romanticism: Romanticism as Praxis (2008). His forthcoming works include the co-authored The Encyclopedia of Romantic Writers and Writing (2021), Blake’s Affective Textualities: Rhythmic Dynamics in the Illuminated Books (2022), and the co-edited The Rise of Rhythm Studies (2022).

M. Cecilia Marchetto-Santorun - William Blake in Galician Literature and Art

Galicia, in the northwest of Spain, is a region with a long history, a singular Atlantic identity, and its own language and culture. After long periods of repression, especially during the Spanish Civil War and the Francoist regime (1936-1975), generations of writers have made efforts to reassert Galician identity, preserve Galician language and literature and stimulate their growth not only in localist and rural terms, but also in cosmopolite and modern ways by connecting Galicia with the major literary traditions and innovations in the rest of Europe and the world through criticism, translation and artistic creation.

20th century Galician authors like Placido Castro (1902-1967) and the poet and engraver Luis Seoane (1910-1969) admired William Blake. There is abundant evidence yet to analyse of their interest in Blake and its influence on their works, as well as that of other authors, like Alvaro Cunqueiro (1911-1981) and his Galician translations of Blake’s poems. Castro’s journalistic articles, essays and translations of Blake’s poetry into Galician, Seoane’s letters, and his illustrations for Neruda’s Spanish translation of Visions of the Daughters of Albion and The Mental Traveller (1947) will be explored in this paper. In them, we will discover these authors’ construct of a Celtic Blake in tune with their defence of the uniqueness of Galicia as an Atlantic region in Spain surrounded by myths of Celtic origins and connections, which originated during the Galician 19th century Romantic poetic revival (the Rexurdimento).

The study of these translations and documents provides important insights on both the reception of Blake in a minoritised culture in a constant “Mental Fight” for survival and growth, and the construction of Galician identity from Romanticism and beyond as a global process that bridges Galicia with many cultures around the world, especially with the British Isles and Ireland.

Cecilia Marchetto holds a PhD from the University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain) and is a visiting scholar at the University of Lincoln. Cecilia worked as a predoctoral researcher for the U of Santiago from 2016 to 2019 with a grant from the government of Galicia.

Jodie Marley - What the Yeatses Partly Learned: A Vision, the Illuminated Books, and Spiritual Collaboration

W. B. Yeats’s A Vision (1925, 1937) fits into a very male mystic canon of works he established in his Blake study The Works of William Blake (1893), including authors Jacob Boehme, Emanuel Swedenborg, and Paracelsus. As Margaret Mills Harper and Catherine E. Paul have recently emphasised, Yeats enlisted the collaboration of George Yeats in the composition of A Vision, to whom spiritual vision came more easily and who insisted that her role be hidden. The image of the Yeatses as a working couple, reassembling handwritten pages of notes into books, evokes their predecessors the Blakes before them, at the printing press.

I will introduce my paper by discussing the working relationships of the Blakes and the Yeatses in the wider context of the spiritual circles they moved in and will briefly outline notable instances of the spiritual roles of women in Blake’s and Yeats’s works. I will then examine Blake’s place among mystic character types in A Vision and how gender influences both these and the nature of spirituality for Yeats. I will emphasise how Yeats conceived of Blake as part of a greater mystic tradition, of which he believed himself and his fellow Celtic writers George Russell and Fiona Macleod (who was actually male author William Sharp) to be inheritors – but not necessarily George Yeats. Women are almost entirely absent from A Vision despite George Yeats’s familiarity with occultism and Yeats’s relationships with 1890s Golden Dawn figureheads Florence Farr and Moina Mathers. Finally, I will consider the development of scholarship surrounding the artists’ spouses, specifically how George Yeats’s former absence from much A Vision scholarship compares with Catherine Blake’s reputation within Blake scholarship.

Jodie Marley is a PhD candidate at the University of Nottingham, researching the conception and construction of William Blake as a ‘mystic’ in his literary afterlife, with particular focus on the works of W. B. Yeats, George Russell and Fiona Macleod.

James Murray-White - Finding Blake

A new 45-minute cut of 'Finding Blake' will screen at the Global Blake conference, on Wednesday 12th January 2022, from 8pm, with a short intro and Q&A with James Murray-White.

From the stunning new ledgerstone at Blake's grave -- traced within the film from its origins in a block of pure Portland stone, through its sensitive and deliberate design and shaping by Lida and all at the Kindersley Workshop in Cambridge, to the graveside celebrations at Bunhill Field -- and meeting with poets, priests, rappers and psychoanalysts, director James went on a three year journey trying to 'Find Blake'.

James Murray-White is an independent film maker, with work on: art and neuroscience (film maker in residence, Cambridge University / NHS Dementia Research Network); applied anthropology (the Bedouin of the Negev); the lives of poets (John Clare; film-poetry with George Szirtes to be exhibited at the Venice Biennale 2019); art and environmental change (associate artist at GroundWork Gallery in King’s Lynn).

Tom Nisse - Le film canoë – Dead man de Jim Jarmusch

My contribution will consist in a reading of my long poem “Le film canoë – Dead man de Jim Jarmusch,” taken from my 2016 poetry collection Extraire published in Belgium by L’Arbre à paroles. The poem was originally written for a poetry anthology about cinematographic art in Luxemburg and later included into the collection.

There are several reasons that incited me to write this poem on the movie Dead Man, the most important being: Jim Jarmusch, who remains one of my favourite movie directors; the theme of the movie, which is the extremely brutal extermination of natural life forms by upcoming capitalism (this extermination having come to a head in recent years) and the resistance against it; and the original soundtrack by Neil Young, who remains one of my favourite songwriters and rock’n’roll band leaders, one very close in time and spirit to the Beat Generation. And, of course, there is also the almost unimaginable poetic strength of the concordance between form and content in a movie which I consider an absolute masterpiece. (I remember that after seeing the film for the first time with a friend, coming out of the cinema, we were unable to speak for half an hour.) In part, this strength is evidently due to the indirect presence of William Blake throughout the movie and to the aims of his poetry pervading its development as a whole.

To make my reading more accessible, it is at present contemplated to have my poem translated into English by the very talented American poet, translator and university professor Anna Leader. My reading will be followed by a discussion and exchange about the genesis, topicality and purpose of the poem as well as of the counterculture in general.

Tom Nisse was born in 1973 in Luxemburg and currently lives in Brussels. He has participated in many poetry readings and performances as well as organized and curated various artistic events. On top of his collaborations with artists of all disciplines, he also practises visual poetry and is a translator from both French to German and German to French. He has authored more than twenty collections of poetry and short prose and is published in France, Belgium and Luxemburg.

Camila Oliveira - Global Blake: Afterlives in Art, Literature and Music

With regard to musical settings in English-language, it seems fairly likely that William Blake is now the most popular among his fellow bards. He emerges as one of the main literary references in musical movements like pop, folk and rock all over the world.  Such popularity proves to be the result of a significant conjunction of factors, ranging from the formal structure of his poems, the consonance between Blake's social, political and artistic values and countercultural movements of the 20th century.

Nevertheless, Blake never showed interest in transforming his collections of poems into a song book, a format very popular in his times. Perhaps he exempted his own songs from musical notation for understanding that such prescriptive implement would fetter his own “fairies”. Instead, he preserved his tunes in text and image, believing that his words and illuminations were the source of infinite melodies that would stand the test of time.  The substantial and soaring number of music settings inspired either directly or indirectly by his work confirms that Blake was successfully able to insert and signal the fundamentally musical aspect of his production without make use of dots and ties, since rarely have poems enjoyed such a vast popularity, with a plethora of melodic interpretations from the late 19th century onwards. By analysing Blake’s earliest renderings in popular genres, such as Ed Sanders’s settings for Ah Sunflower and How Sweet I Roamed from Field to Field (1963), followed by Allen Ginsberg’s album Songs of Innocence and Experience (1969), we aim to understand how musicians find simultaneously Blake’s voice and their own when setting a Blake poem.

Camila Oliveira is a postdoctoral researcher at the English Department of the University of Geneva. She holds a PhD in English Literature from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro/ Kings College London (2021) and a MA in Music. Currently researches the influence of William Blake in popular music and translated Jerusalem (2021) to Portuguese.

Christoph Reinfandt - Musical Settings of William Blake: Implications of Genre

Of all British Romantic writers, William Blake has inspired by far the most musical settings of  his work, ranging from ‘classically’ composed, as in William Parry’s well-known setting of “And  did those feet in ancient time” (“Jerusalem”, 1916), Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Ten Blake Songs  (1957), Benjamin Britten’s Songs and Proverbs of William Blake (1965) and John Tavener’s The  Lamb (1982), to poet Allen Ginsberg’s musical performances of the Songs of Innocence and  Experience (1969) and on to various performances and recordings in jazz, folk and rock/pop  idioms.1It is these latter that the proposed paper intends to focus on: While the field of Blake’s  musical reception has been broadly charted (cf. for example, Paris 2014, Lussier 2007, Walker  2018, Root 2018, Lobdell 2018, Sanders 2018, Whittaker 2019), the proposed paper will try to  contextualise individual musical settings though the concept of genre. Centrally drawing on  Mike Goode’s “Blakespotting” (2006) and bringing together his reference to Wai Chee Dimock’s  “Theory of Resonance” (1997) with more recent work on new modes of reading and  interpretation (esp. Steven Connor’s “Spelling Things Out”, 2014) as well as on how to analyse  and interpret media textures in general (my own “Reading Textures”, 2016) and songs in  particular (Allan Moore, Song Means: Analysing and Interpreting Recorded Popular Song,  2012), the paper will address the implications of musical genres for reception processes and  try to place these in the broader field of Blake reception, from the academically historicised  through commodification to the visionary and artistic.

Christoph Reinfandt is Professor of English Literature at the University of Tuebingen. He is the General  Editor of ZAA (Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik), an English language quarterly of language,  literature and culture. His main areas of research are the history and theory of the novel, Romanticism,  contemporary literature and culture (including popular culture), Indian literature in English, and  theory. He has written monographs on the meaning of fictional worlds in the English novel from the  18th century to the present (Winter, 1997), on the persistence of Romantic modes of communication  in modern culture (Winter, 2003), and on English Romanticism (E. Schmidt, 2008). Recent edited  collections include Theory Matters: The Place of Theory in Literary and Cultural Studies Today (with  Martin Middeke; Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), The Literary Market in the UK (with Amrei Katharina  Nensel; E-publication University of Tuebingen, 2017) and Handbook of the English Novel of the  Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries (De Gruyter, 2017).

Silvia Riccardi - “A pure linear undulation” Blakean Inflections in Stile Liberty

With its name inspired after the London shop Liberty’s, stile Liberty is the Italian counterpart of  the Arts and Crafts movement in Britain which contributed to the development of Art Nouveau  at the turn of the twentieth century. The intersection of stile Liberty with artists such as the Pre Raphaelites and William Morris, whose work reveals an important influence of William Blake, is  noteworthy, especially in the conception of space as composed of multiple, all-over morphing  patterns, in the dominance of interlacing elements, and most forcefully in the aesthetics of the  sinuous line – a line which blends organic forms and blurs the boundaries between the human and  the nonhuman. As architectural historian Giulia Veronesi acutely observes, Blake’s forms take on  “a pure linear undulation which gives the Pre-Raphaelites a first hint for their inauguration of Art  Nouveau” (1947). In the façade of Casa Galimberti in Milan (1902-05) by architect Giovanni  Battista Bossi, for instance, decorative sculptures and murals frame the windows of the building  the way marginal ornaments enrich the engraved surfaces of Blake’s work. While in the illuminated  books the text is a means of prophetic message, the windows of Casa Galimberti become “doors  of perception” at the boundary between the private and the public dimension. The line here is turned into an expressive element which has an energy of its own, carrying on the spirit of Blake’s  dictum: “Leave out this line and you leave out life itself” (E540). Blake considers movement an  essential part of the line – “How do we distinguish one face or countenance from another, but by  the bounding line and its infinite inflexions and movements?” – and stile Liberty embodies this  sentiment fully.

Although largely overlooked, Blakean inflections in stile Liberty are significant in the reception of  the London engraver as an exponent of British art: they prompt questions about the Italian market  in the arts at the turn of the century, the entanglement of human and nonhuman life forms beyond  materialism, and the appreciation of Blake from a European point of view. This paper revolves  around the exploration of these concerns, contextualizing Liberty as a style which, besides its  important connection to Art Nouveau, crucially contributed to aesthetic negotiations across  borders.

Silvia Riccardi is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Uppsala. She has written on the reception of Dante in England, most recently on Blake’s illustrations to the Commedia in Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly. She is currently working on Blake’s graphic and textual forms of biomorphism as well as on a book project on the aesthetics of Dark Romanticism.

Caroline Anjali Ritchie - Local Blake: London-based small presses, urban topography, and the afterlives of Golgonooza

In their chapter entitled ‘Metropolitan Blake,’ Shirley Dent and Jason Whittaker chart the ways in which Blake-influenced writers have taken up the ‘golden string’ of Blake’s urban imagery. Indeed, Blake’s posthumous reputation as a poet-artist of and in London’s streets has only continued to gain force—not least in those very streets where Blake himself lived, worked, and walked. Yet scholars have tended to overlook the wider and still-evolving networks of London-based artists and writers working in a ‘Blakean’ or Blake-influenced vein. 

I draw attention to the abundance, in London, of independent publishing ventures with Blakean redolences up to the present day. The activities of London-based small presses can help to illuminate at least two key aspects of Blake’s reception. Firstly, the small presses, often rooted in ‘countercultural’ ideas and practices, bespeak and foster a certain reputation, increasingly accrued to Blake, of experimental and autonomous artisanship operating outside or in opposition to the ‘dominant’ means of production. Secondly, I emphasise both the importance of place in the small presses’ connections to Blake and to Blake’s London, and the strongly topographical bent of many of their Blakean publications. I posit that these ventures participate in the ongoing project of (re)imagining an ever-emergent urban ‘text,’ which Blake’s work itself sets in motion. 

Many London-Blakean practitioners originate from or are partly based outside of London itself, hailing from (for instance) Liverpool, New Zealand, Dublin, and the US, suggesting a potentially wider geographical reach for ‘local Blake.’ However, their Blakean work is overwhelmingly and intimately centred on London in site-specific detail, and it is in part by virtue of this curious localism that the networks of London Blakeans can be seen as representing a distinctive formation within Blake’s legacy.

Caroline Anjali Ritchie is an AHRC-funded PhD Candidate at Tate Britain and the University of York. She holds a BA in Classics and English from the University of Oxford and an MA in Art History, Curatorship, and Renaissance Culture from the Warburg Institute. Her research relates Blake’s work to the history and theory of mapping.

Ramazan Saral - Lost in Translation: The Problem of Translating Blake into Turkish

William Blake’s symbolism could be baffling even for those who are acquainted with the sources he used. His take on the biblical as well as literary symbolism requires one to re-evaluate everything they have known and re-establish the taken for granted symbols in a new, Blakean light. The significance he attributes to the human and Imagination depend on the understanding of these symbols, and without them, understanding him would seem difficult. 

It is especially difficult to decipher these symbols in a non-Christian country, because most of Blake’s symbolism can be traced back to Christian symbols. When you miss this meaning, it becomes an even more discombobulating maze of symbols. The Turkish translations of Blake’s works, therefore, suffer from this loss of meaning. Christian symbolism is lost in translation and not many Turkish people know the literary sources Blake refers to either. The aim of this study is to study the many translations of Blake’s works and analyse how the loss of meaning affects the understanding of Blake’s message in the Turkish language and the role this loss plays in the reception of Blake in Turkey.

Ramazan Saral is a Ph.D. candidate at Ege University, Turkey writing his dissertation on Blake and Mythopoeia. He has been trying to clear his doors of perception since he met Blake.

Vera Serdechnaia - Crying, singing and directing on Blake in Russia (2017-2020)

William Blake’s poetry has generated much interest in Russia in last years. 

Dmitry Smirnov  issued in 2017 a full translation of Jerusalem (Magreb Publ.) and prepared a full bilingual version of Milton, out in 2021. Both books are published with a big commentary and the dictionary, written by Smirnov. These are first translations of these prophecies into Russian. Thus, by the time of his untimely death in 2020 Smirnov has translated almost all of Blake’s poems (with the exception of Four Zoas), offering a unique project of monological translation reading of Blake in Russian. 

Poet Andrey Tavrov created a cycle “Сrying on Blake” (Platch po Bleiku) (2018), which shows many interesting ways of re-creating Blake myth and biography in the context of Russian and world poetry. This book contains such poems as “Blake and the baby”, “Blake and an angel”, “Blake between the lake and wax”, “Blake. The sparrow” and so on. 

In 2020, in the Electrotheatre Stanislavsky (Moscow), composer and director Alexander Belousov presented an opera Book of Seraphim, based on Blake’s Book of Thel (in a translation by Bal’mont) and a piece of Dostoyevsky’s novel Demons (Besy) in English translation (“Stavrogin’s Confession”). This is an interesting example of the combination of Blake and Dostoyevsky, which can be seen earlier in Andre Gide and Czeslaw Milosz. In the same year, rock singers Leonid Fedorov and Igor Krutogolov created a series of music videos of songs based on Blake’s lyrics. It’s a very interesting project that united new Blake Russian translations, indie rock music, and extravagant low-budget videos in the face of COVID pandemic. Leonid Fedorov told he became interested in Blake when he saw an exhibition in Tate Gallery in 2019, and read his biography by Peter Ackroyd.

Vera Serdechnaia lives in Krasnodar, Russia. She is a Candidate of Philology, and a theater critic. She is an author of two monographs: Small Epics by William Blake: Narration, Typology, Context (Saint Petersburg: Dmitrii Bulanin, 2012, in Russian), and William Blake in Russian Culture, 1834–​2020 (Moscow: Gorodets Publ., 2021, in Russian). She is an assistant professor at Kuban state university.

Suzanne Sklar - Blake’s Global Vision

Jerusalem, the Emanation of the Giant Albion, presents an image of Albion in the final chapter of the grand poem Blake created between 1804 and 1821.  Jerusalem, Blake’s heroine, inspires and orchestrates a global network, in which the music and treasures of every culture animate life in what Blake calls the Divine Body.   In that organic system a socio-economic ethic of imaginative cooperation eclipses self-serving competition – and nationalism.  Identity (both cultural and individual) is enhanced in Jerusalem’s system.  In Jerusalem, cooperation does not mean subsuming an individual to a collective.  It does not negate national or cultural identity. Mental fight, with a gleaming spiritual sword, is needed to build Jerusalem in England’s pleasant land.  But Jerusalem isn’t confined to that land.  She’s meant to overspread the earth, eradicating poverty and war; in Blake’s epic she embraces Jesus in Spain, the land of Teresa of Avila, whose spiritually erotic visions Blake most probably knew.  She dwells in France, and lives in the Baltics as well, welcoming the sons of Ethiopia.  In Blake’s Jerusalem every person, and every nation, is exceptional and blessed.

Susanne Sklar, a member of the Cumnor Fellowship (Oxford), has taught and written about Blake in six countries. She'd like Jerusalem to be staged!

David Smith - “When I see his work, my soul is taken to a world of stars”: Blake as an Influence on Manga

Blake’s reception in and influence on Japanese artists and poets has been admirably addressed in The Reception of Blake in the Orient, among other works, though the focus of criticism mainly lingers on the impact of Blake’s poetic and cosmological structures on twentieth century writers and poets like Muneyoshi Yanagi, Yoshiro Nagayo, and Oe Kenzaburo. The above quote came from Nagayo’s effusive appreciation to Blake’s art that first appeared in the 1910s thanks to the Shirakaba Group’s magazine (1914) and exhibit (1915). 

Likewise, Blake’s impact on comics and graphic novels has received attention from various critics. Roger Whitson brings Blake and Alan Moore into conversation via Moore’s popular and influential graphic novel Watchmen. Blakean references appear both explicitly and implicitly in numerous other graphic narratives ranging from Dr. Strange to Spawn. Robert Petersen in his book Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels : A History of Graphic Narratives cites Blake as “the forerunner of a new kind of publication, the art book…[that] were themselves works of art which could be distributed among a wider audience.” 

What has received less attention is the possible linkage between Blake’s multimodal illuminated prophecies and manga, the uniquely Japanese form of comics that rose to prominence in the twentieth century. My argument holds that elements of Blake’s texts resonated with tenets of Japanese aesthetics and culture that appear in manga texts in the twentieth century and beyond. Blake’s use of ambiguity, kairotic and synchronic time, and transformation during times of immense cultural upheaval may have informed manga as much as post-war American comics. Blake’s ability to present compelling and complex visual-verbal composite texts that straddle high- and low-brow culture, and his introduction to a new generation of Japanese artists at the cusp of the modern rise of manga suggest the genre’s indebtedness to the English artisan and a new way to engage with these multimodal texts.

David Smith teaches English and Interdisciplinary Studies at Baylor University, where he received his doctorate in Romantic literature. His dissertation discussed Blake’s multimodal messianism in his early prophecies, and his research explores the intersection of religion, ecopoetics, and aesthetics during the Romantic era. He has authored papers on Blake, Wordsworth and Coleridge, respectively, as well as Gothic literature.

Juliana Steil - Blake in Brazil: Translations

Building on my previous works about Blake in translation, this paper aims at reflecting on the reception of Blake in Brazil from the perspective of the translations of his works in the Brazilian literary system. Besides presenting a chronological panorama of the translations of Blake’s works into Brazilian Portuguese, which portrays a history of a little more than six decades, the paper will analyze (drawing from André Lefevere’s concept of “rewriting”) the preferences that these translations manifest for certain texts, as well as will investigate the ideological and poetological motivations/constraints underlying the translation projects. Finally, the framework of the Brazilian translations will be compared to the translations of Blake’s works published in Portugal, as they are also available (at least some of them) in Brazil, and it will be argued that the Brazilian and Portuguese translation systems have developed different and complementary images of Blake in the context of the Portuguese language. 

Juliana Steil is a lecturer in Translation Studies at the Universidade Federal de Pelotas, Brazil. Her research interests revolve around literary translation and the work of William Blake. Among her translations into Brazilian Portuguese are Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence (A Época da Inocência), with Jonas Tenfen (Record, 2011), and Anthony Pym’s Exploring Translation Theories (Explorando Teorias da Tradução), in collaboration with Rodrigo Borges de Faveri and Claudia Borges de Faveri (Perspectiva, 2017).

Mei-Ying Sung - Blake’s Orc & the Taiwanese Deity Nezha

Blake’s Orc is a mythological character usually seen as the embodiment of rebellion, which inspiring revolutions. This paper wishes to contrast Orc with a similar mythological & religious character Nezha in Chinese and Taiwanese culture. 

Nezha probably originated from ancient central Asia and became a Buddhist deity. In China he was later associated with a historical figure Li Jing, the general of the Tang Dynasty, becoming his son and called “The Lotus Third Prince”. In Buddhist sutras and folklores, Nezha committed suicide, carving up his own flesh and dismembering his bones "returning" these to his parents in repayment for the debt of his birth to save his family and the people. He was then resurrected from a lotus and turned into a protective god. Nezha was usually depicted as a youth riding on Wheels with wind and fire. In Taiwan, the temples celebrating Nezha grow in numbers, and even became a popular culture among young people in the millennium. 

Quite clearly, Blake’s Orc has no connection with Nezha whatsoever. However, the universal rebellious spirit of the youth shares amazing characters and still thrives everywhere in the world in our time.

Masashi Suzuki - Swedenborgian “Science of Correspondences”: William Blake and D. T. Suzuki

Daisets (usually rendered Daisetz) Teitaro Suzuki (1870-1966) is Japan’s foremost authority on Zen Buddhism. Suzuki once referred to Blake as “the great mystic in modern England” and quoted the first few lines of Auguries of Innocence, saying that the mysticism and symbolism implied here would be Western counterparts to those of Oriental Zen. Muneyoshi (Soetsu) Yanagi, Suzuki’s disciple, has often been referred to in Blake studies, but few substantial attempts have been made to examine Suzuki in relation to Blake. The present paper aims to show how Blake and Suzuki, via Emanuel Swedenborg, resonated with each other, even though any tangible reciprocal influences between them might not be traced. 

Between 1910 and 1915 Suzuki translated Swedenborg’s Heaven and Hell and three other major works into Japanese. In 1912 he was invited to deliver a short address “A Japanese Impression of Swedenborg” at the annual meeting of the Swedenborg Society. In his small book on Swedenborg’s life and thought Swedenborg (1913), he says that “Now, in Japan, the field of religious thought is finally reaching a state of crisis. Those who wish to cultivate their spirit, those who bemoan the times, must absolutely know of this person [Swedenborg]”. There can be no doubt that Swedenborg’s writings and doctrines are of unusual importance in relation to Blake’s. Blake even writes in A Descriptive Catalogue (1809) that Swedenborg’s works are “foundations for grand things” and that “The reason they [Swedenborg’s works] have not been more attended to, is, because corporeal demons have gained a predominance.” 

What attracts us most about the involvement of both Blake and Suzuki with Swedenborgianism is how they are hugely benefiting from one of his major doctrines, “Science of Correspondences”, by employing it in their own unique way. If Blake’s primary interest in it is the dynamic conflict and unity of the spiritual and natural worlds, Suzuki’s chief concern in his major work Japanese Spirituality (1944) is ‘spirituality’ (reisei霊性) operating as ‘medium’ (John Clowes, On Mediums), which, the paper argues, is implicit in the doctrine.

Masashi Suzuki is Professor emeritus at Kyoto University. He organized International Blake Conference “Blake in the Orient” in Kyoto which was held the first time ever in Japan in 2003. He edited with Steve Clark Reception of Blake in the Orient, a collection of essays based upon the Conference in 2006.

Ines Tebourski - Poetry/Image/Music: Multimodal Inscriptions on William Blake's London

This paper entitled “Poetry/ Music Interface in William Blake’s “London:” Towards a Multimodal Semiotic Reading” aims at examining the way William Blake’s poem “London” was “re- written” by being both adopted and adapted for an audiovisual postmodern animation. It seeks to highlight why and how Blake, a poet and artist of the eighteenth century, is still omnipresent in the twenty-first century not only through his poetry and visual art, but also through the “re-writing” of his works. Gérard Genette, for instance, refers to this very act of re-writing in his theory of “Transtextuality” where he invokes the transformative effect of a “hypertext” when grafted on a “hypotext.” The focus of this paper is on the interface between the poetic and the pictorial as well as the words and the image in both poem and song as “London” has been subject to a different mode of “re-writing” namely music. The choice of the mode through which to re-introduce what was written is at the crux of the “re-writing” process and music is one of the most persuasive modes in “multimodal communication” to use Gunther Kress and Theo Van Leeuwen’s term. The multimodal discourse accentuates the importance of the different modes of communication including the words, sound, image, rhythm and colour, and stresses the importance of their added meanings; hence my choice of the multimodal semiotic analysis for this paper.

Ines Tebourski, a university teacher (professeur agregée) in the Higher Institute of Applied Studies in Humanities in Tunisia. I am teaching poetry and novel. I am also a doctoral student working on William Blake’s Illuminated Books, opting for a multimodal semiotic analysis of both the poetic and the iconic in his works.

Tatiana Tiutvinova - A Harmony of Form and Idea: Illustrations by the Modern Russian Artists to Blake’s Poetry

The report focuses on the original graphics works by the modern Russian artists such as Pavel Pepperstein, Yuri Vashenko, Anatasia Arhipova, Masha Titova, Katya Vatel, Alice Yufa and others to Blake’s poetry. All these artists represent a New Generation of talented illustrators who have experience with the famous English Literature. Most of the above-mentioned have been awards and recognized artists. The Сreativity of each of them is an appeal to the problems of Spirit, Intellect, Society and Man. Using their personal experience and Blake's legacy, they are find a new wave in the history of illustration. This became possible because many Russian artists read poetry by Blake in English and boldly express their own opinions. Their purpose is free Imagination. This is a kind of key to Blake's works. Another important aspect that the report touches on is a dialogue between the modern culture of Russia and Great Britain. An incredibly important thing, because Blake's ideas were distorted during the Soviet Era, which led to many mistakes. Today in Russia there is a growing interest in Blake's legacy. Contemporary artists have a subtle sense of this process and try to be as part of it.

Tatiana Tiutvinova is Keeper of British Prints and Drawings from the 17th to the first half of the 20th Century in the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts (Moscow, Russia). She is professional curator and related academic. In 2011, she co-curated an exhibition ‘William Blake and British Visionary Artists’.  She has also developed the first Russian educational resource site devoted to British prints (www.britishprints.ru), which has over 700 prints online with comments. Her currently research includes the Catalogue Raisonné of British Graphic Collection at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, which will be published in Summer 2025.

Colin Trodd - William Blake and The Spiritual Forms of Citizenship and Hospitality

The first part of this paper focuses on previously unstudied materials relating to the critical recuperation of William Blake in the period between c.1910 and 1930. It notes how commentators utilised ideas of citizenship and hospitality when they attempted to universalise Blake’s interests and concerns. It explains how these distinctive critical idioms were constructed, what they had in common and how they situated Blake in larger public arguments about the social significance of cultural creativity. The second part of the article traces the ramifications of this new way of thinking about Blake by noting his appearance in modernist and neo-romantic art criticism in the 1930s and 1940s.

Colin Trodd (University of Manchester) is the author and co-editor of books on British painting and culture, including Victorian Culture and the Idea of the Grotesque (1999), Governing Cultures (2000), Art and the Academy (2000), Representations of G. F. Watts (2004), and Visions of Blake: William Blake in the Art World, 1830-1930 (2012).

Annalisa Volpone - “Along red network of his veins/what fires run, what craving wakes?”: Plath (re)verses Blake.

This paper addresses Sylvia Plath’s engagement with William Blake’s poetry in “The Pursuit” (posthumously published in 1973) and “Death & co.” (from the collection Ariel, posthumously published in 1965). In a letter to her mother Aurelia Schober Plath dated March 5th, 1956, she mentions “The Pursuit” and explains that the poem is “influenced a bit by Blake, I think (tiger, tiger)” (Letters, 1133). Blake was one of Ted Hughes’ favorite poets, and Plath usually refers to him in conjunction with Hughes’ poetry. Indeed, “The Pursuit” is the first poem she writes about her love story with Hughes, in which he is represented by a panther, that is Plath’s version of Blake’s tiger, who is hunting his prey, which is represented by Plath herself. This poem presents many features (both in style and in content) that echo Blake’s “The Tyger” and shows Plath’s non-casual knowledge of his poetry and her absorption of his vision of nature and of the animal world. “The Pursuit” is a poem directly related to Blake, however one could say that Plath’s representation of nature is strictly connected to his also in many other poems whose references to his poetry are less immediate. I argue that what has been defined as Plath’s “ecopoetics” (Knickerbocker 2012) is also the result of her reception of Blake’s idea of nature. In “Death & co.” Blake is directly mentioned in the first lines of the poem (“The one who never looks up, whose eyes are lidded/And balled, like Blake’s,/ who exhibits/the birthmarks that are his trademark–“). In the introductory note to "Death & Co.," which she prepared for radio broadcast, Plath conveys that the poem "is about the double or schizophrenic nature of death—the marmoreal coldness of Blake's death mask, say, hand in glove with the fearful softness of worms, water and the other katabolists" (294), in her journal she also mentions Blake’s idea of “deadness”, a concept that I would like to explore in this paper. Plath’s admiration for Blake is quite apparent and ascertained, still there is much to be said on the significant and non-incidental impact that Blake’s poetry and visual art did have on her works.

Annalisa Volpone is Associate Professor of English Literature at the University of Perugia. She has written on modernism and postmodernism, on eighteenth and nineteenth century British literature (Wollstonecraft, Blake, Coleridge, P. B. Shelley and Mary Shelley). Her research interests include the interconnections between literature and science. She is currently working on a monograph on William Blake and contemporary brain science.

Luke Walker - ‘Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstasies!’: Allen Ginsberg’s Retellings of His ‘Blake Vision’

The strange 1948 experience that Allen Ginsberg referred to as his “Blake Vision” was foundational to his identity and career as a poet and activist. His compulsion to retell the story, Ginsberg said, was comparable to that of Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner. Through such verbal and textual reiterations, the vision became a central part of the Beat mythos, and a key element of the proselytizing mission which Ginsberg conducted on Blake’s behalf within the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s.

However, the narrative details of this visionary experience, as presented within Blake scholarship and in much writing on Ginsberg and the Beats, have nearly always been drawn from a single source: the Paris Review interview conducted in 1965, some seventeen years after the vision itself.

This reliance on one source has led critics to overlook other fascinating, frequently conflicting, accounts of the vision. These include a series of short, intense poems written in 1948 in a lyric style which is very different to Ginsberg’s later poetry, as well as a contemporaneous letter in which Ginsberg cryptically tells Neal Cassady that “The light broke for me several times in the past weeks.” Critics have also largely overlooked Ginsberg’s earliest sustained narrative account of his Blake vision, written in 1949 as part of an unpublished “Portrait” of the hustler and Beat muse Herbert Huncke. This contains many individual phrases which recur in the later Paris Review interview, but also notable factual differences. Ginsberg makes broad comparisons between his visionary experience and the content of Blake’s poetry, but omits any mention of hearing Blake’s voice, or the causative role of reading Blake’s poetry immediately prior to the vision.

Alongside an examination of these little-known early sources, my paper presents an overview of Ginsberg’s lifelong process of re-examination of his “Blake vision.” In doing so, it seeks to contextualize several other significant elements of the famous Paris Review interview, including Ginsberg’s statements on his changing relationship to Blake, his approach to visionary and psychedelic experience in general, and the process by which poetry works on the mind.

Luke Walker has spoken and published widely on topics relating to William Blake, Romanticism, Beat poetry and counterculture. His book, William Blake and Allen Ginsberg: Romanticism, Counterculture and Radical Reception, is forthcoming from Manchester University Press. Since completing his PhD, he has taught at the University of Sussex, University of Chichester and University of Roehampton.

David Worrall - Neural Blake: Blake's 'Visions' as Universal Entropic Phenomena

The basis of this paper* is that Blake’s neural networks are global and universal.  We can best understand him and his ‘visions’ by understanding our own neural networks.  Yours are the same as his  -- which may be why he enjoys the ‘Afterlives’ of the conference CFP. 

No later than his watercolour Milton’s Mysterious Dream, where they are shown, Blake had identified three out of the four ‘form-constant’ visual geometrical hallucinatory types later classified by Heinrich Klüver in 1926 (1816, Morgan Library). Klüver form-constants are percepts appearing within the visual field which are mapped from the Primary Visual Cortex (V1) directly onto the retina. Unlike other theories of patterning in Blake’s art, Klüver form-constants have neural correlates.  These neural correlates were validated by Ermentrout and Cowan (1979) and Bressloff and Cowan, et al, (2001) who successfully traced their source to V1. They are neural phenomena and have no known connection to ‘mind’ (as consciousness) and are not evidence of a disorder. 

Klüver form-constants are provoked by a variety of agencies, of which migraine aura is the most naturally occurring. Blake would have seen these as self-luminous percepts, eyes open or eyes closed. Blake’s accompanying documentation to Milton’s Mysterious Dream refers to ‘Scrolls & Nets & Webs’ (E 685), accurately described the spirals, lattices, tunnels and ‘cobwebs’ later categorized by Klüver.  Their stability and predictability across h.sapiens (e.g. they don’t alter according to race or gender) have offered important insights into the structure of V1 in a field where advanced mathematics meets neuroscience (Ermentrout and Cowan, 1979; Bressloff and Cowan, et al, 2001). 

By tracing the incidence of Klüver form-constants across Blake’s art, it is now possible to assign his ‘visionary’ moments, differentiating them from his more culturally derived compositions.  The results are remarkable.  They have a high rate of prevalence in the illuminated book designs but a relatively low rate of prevalence in the paintings. However, this low incidence can, in turn, be used to analyse how he distributed ‘visionary’ paintings amongst his patrons (the Reverend Joseph Thomas, of Epsom, bought several, for example). *A more detailed account, ‘Seen In My Visions’: Klüver Form-Constant Visual Hallucinations In William Blake’s Paintings and Illuminated Books,’ will appear in Blake/An Illustrated Quarterly in 2022.

David Worrall’s recent work on Blake includes, ‘Blake as Shaman: The Neuroscience of Hallucinations,’ in Helen P. Bruder and Tristanne Connolly (eds.) Beastly Blake (Palgrave Studies in Animals and Literature) (Palgrave Macmillan: 2018) pp 135-152; ‘Les Relations de William Blake et de Mécènes, vues sous L’Angle de la Neurologie,’ in Le Mécènat litteraire aux XIXe et XXe siècles, ed.

Zhongxing Zeng - A Song Adaptation of “The Ecchoing Green”

This paper presents an analysis of the composition and revision of the song “The Echoing Green”. The song is an adaptation of William Blake’s lyric poem “The Ecchoing Green” published in his poem collection Songs of Innocence (1789). Two versions of this song are under examination here. The composition section delves into the initial designs of genres, rhythmic patterns, melodic lines, and emotional contexts that are applied to the first version (2019). The revision section elaborates on the changes made to the first version and the new features in the current version (2020). Video and audio clips are included to ensure the accessibility and clarity of the oral presentation. 

The philosophy of adaptation for this project is based on the interactive fusion of the primary motifs and messages in Blake’s texts/images and the songwriter's own channeling and reflective reconstructions of melodic lines. When a poem is set to music, it naturally acquires another format, another quality, another dimension. The words are expressed within musical structures and sounds, which add new colors to the pitch, rhythm, rhyme, and textures of the original texts. As Simon Frith states, “Song words work as speech and speech acts, bearing meaning not just semantically, but also as structures of sound that are direct signs of emotion and marks of character” (97). In the process of singing the words out loud, the abstract and indirect linguistic signifiers are somewhat converted into immediate auditory articulations in the song form. This project hereby explores the boundaries between the meaning of sounds and the meaning of words in Blake’s poems. It celebrates and re-imagines Blake’s poetic and spiritual legacy by way of creative combinations of verbal and musical expressions.

Zhongxing Zeng is a Ph.D. (Literature) student in the English Department at Arizona State University, where he works with Professor Mark Lussier. His research interests include William Blake, English Romanticism, and English-Chinese Literary Translation. He is also a singer-songwriter with publications of original music on NetEase Music.

Conference Organisers

Sibylle Erle

Sibylle Erle, FRSA, FHEA, is Reader in English Literature at Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln. She is the author of Blake, Lavater and Physiognomy (Legenda, 2010) and chapters and articles on Blake, Fuseli, Lavater, Tennyson, Ludwig Meidner and Frankenstein. She co-curated with Philippa Simpson the display ‘Blake and Physiognomy’ (2010-2011) at Tate Britain, co-edited with Laurie Garrison Science, Technology and the Senses (special issue, RaVoN, 2008), co-edited with Laurie Garrison, Verity Hunt, Phoebe Putnam and Peter West Panoramas, 1787-1900: Texts and Contexts, 5 vols (Pickering & Chatto, 2012). More recently, she co-edited with Morton D. Paley The Reception of William Blake in Europe, 2 vols (Bloomsbury, 2019) and with Helen Hendry Monsters: Interdisciplinary Explorations in Monstrosity (special issue, Humanities & Social Sciences Communications, 2019-2020). Apart from reception, her current research is on monsters, perceptions of death in Young Adult Literature, Tennyson, Swedenborg as well as conceptualisations and representations of ‘character’ in Romantic period literature. She is also editor of VALA, The Journal of The Blake Society.

Jason Whittaker

Jason Whittaker is Head of the School of English and Journalism at the University of Lincoln. He has written extensively on William Blake, with this most recent publications including Divine Images, the Life and Work of William Blake (2021) and Jerusalem: Blake, Parry and the Fight for Englishness (2022). He is also editor of the site zoamorphosis.com.