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Dent, Shirley
Languages: English
Types: Doctoral thesis
Subjects: PR
This thesis examines Blake's posthumous reception, focusing particularly on the 1860s, 1870s and 1880s as decades in which Blake's reputation was both consolidated as a poet and artist, and invigorated as a radical sympathizer. As Blake's texts and life were being formed and re-formed in physically and conceptually elaborate books, such as Alexander Gilchrist's The Life of William Blake and Algernon Charles Swinburne's William Blake: a critical essay, significant and innovative appropriations of Blake's poetry and illustrations were made in Republican and freethinking periodicals and pamphlets. This thesis recovers some of that material.\ud \ud Retrieving the influence of such "low culture" ephemera on the "high" culture of Pre-Raphaelite creativity allows the Victorian Blake to emerge as a multi-faceted, contradictory production: both secular iconoclast and mystical visionary, blasphemous sibyl and poet of social justice. Nineteenth-century readings and reproductions of Blake are a chronicle of freethought and freeform. The multiplicity of Blake in this period, in both reproduction and interpretation, enables a questioning of books and periodicals as mediums of representation. Blake's reproduction in the nineteenth century coincides with, and yet confounds, Foucauldian configurations of nineteenth-century representation. Although Blake is depicted as a lone, isolated individual - often labouring under the insane tag - this does not simply signify an epistemological nadir of vacuous, disconnected individualism, such as Foucault identifies.\ud \ud On the contrary, this thesis seeks to prove that the enthusiasm for Blake in the 1860s, 1870s and 1880s is facilitated by a deep connectivity of medium and message, and between different mediums and different messages. The political stance of Secularism meets the cultural concerns of Aestheticism, both reproducing Blake through technology that improvises upon and rejuvenates Blake's own unique craft.
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