Ideology and Utopia in the Poetry of William Blake

Ideology and Utopia in the Poetry of William Blake

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Nicholas M. Williams
Cambridge University Press, 30/04/1998
EAN 9780521620505, ISBN10: 0521620503

Paperback, 271 pages, 22.9 x 14.7 x 1.3 cm

Scholars have often drawn attention to William Blake’s unusual sensitivity to his social context. In this book Nicholas Williams situates Blake’s thought historically by showing how through the decades of a long and productive career Blake consistently responded to the ideas, writing, and art of contemporaries. Williams presents detailed readings of several of Blake’s major poems alongside Rousseau’s Emile, Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Paine’s Rights of Man, Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, and Robert Owen’s Utopian Experiments. In so doing, he offers revealing new insights into key Blake texts and draws attention to their inclusion of notions of social determinism, theories of ideology-critique, and Utopian traditions. Williams argues that if we are truly to understand ideology as it relates to Blake, we must understand the practical situation in which the ideological Blake found himself. His study is a revealing commentary on the work of one of our most challenging poets.

"His discussion of Blake and gender, his comparison of the Blakean view of history to Burkean historiography, and his placing of Blake's apocalyptic works and his Jerusalem in critical juxtaposition to The Rights of Man and to Robert Owens's experiments in early socialism allow us to read Blake in a context that is all too often ignored in Blake studies." Joseph W. Childers