This seminar will focus on the poetry and prose of William Blake, with special attention to his longer poems, The Four Zoas and Jerusalem. We will read, however, earlier poems, letters, and other prose, including The Songs of Innocence and of Experience, and the earlier prophetic works, as they provide the essential foundation for the longer poems. We will pay particular attention to issues of Blake’s revisions—both apparent patterns and plans for future works, repeatedly changed or abandoned, and his extensive and superbly preserved (but very complex) revisions to The Four Zoas, as setting up critical issues for the completion of later poems, particularly Milton and Jerusalem.
Blake’s liminal position as a major writer, often neglected, between 18th century literary and intellectual concerns and arguably the first of the major Romantic writers presents a number of critical and historical problems. We will examine his career as a graphic artist, much better known than has often been assumed in studies of Romanticism, and its relation to his distinctive theories of poetry and imagination.
William Blake. The Complete Poetry and Selected Prose, ed. David Erdman (Doubleday) William Blake. The Complete Illuminated Works (Thames)
Critical articles and other resources will be available in a course reader, and on-line reserve.