Call for Papers: Romantic Connections conference, Tokyo, 2014

I’m on the organizing committee for a North American Society for the Study of Romanticism (NASSR) supernumerary conference, taking place at the University of Tokyo, 13-15 June 2014. It is also supported by the British Association for Romantic Studies (BARS), the German Society for English Romanticism (GER), the Japan Association of English Romanticism (JAER), and the Romantic Studies Association of Australasia (RSAA). Magnificently international! Romanticism is everywhere…

For information, including the call for papers, please visit the beautiful conference website (designed by Laurence Williams).

Sexy Blake!

Another magnificent production of the Helen P. Bruder and Tristanne Connolly powerhouse (if we may say so ourselves) — Sexy Blake is a companion to our previous Queer Blake and along with Blake, Gender and Culture, a beautiful offspring (or monstrous progeny) of the Blake, Gender and Sexuality in the Twenty-First Century conference that we organized in July 2010.

This book lays bare the sexy Blake lately obscured in fogs of political correctness and post-feminism. Its contributors uncover, in fact, numerous sexy Blakes, arguing for both chastity and pornography, violence and domination as well as desire and redemption, and also journeying in the realms of conceptual sex and conceptual art. Fierce tussles over the body in, and the body of, Blake’s work are the book’s life-blood. Contributors differ passionately in their conclusions about the nature of Blake’s sexiness. All acknowledge Christopher Hobson’s revelation of Blake’s insistent tendency to normalize perversity – some with relish, some with alarm. We celebrate the mysteries of Blakean attractions and repulsions, and hope this volume will re-animate the lively sexual debates which once characterized Blake Studies.

Sexy Blake will come out on Hallowe’en 2013!

New book series: Pop Music, Culture and Identity

I’m co-editing a book series with Steve Clark and Jason Whittaker (my co-editors on Blake 2.0, in which we all wrote about music!). It’s called Pop Music, Culture and Identity, and it’s with Palgrave Macmillan. The first few books are in the works now — we have a few more in the pipeline — and we’re eager to see what other proposals come up once word on the series gets out. Here’s the little blurb describing how we envision the series:

Pop music lasts. A form all too often assumed to be transient, commercial and mass-cultural has proved itself durable, tenacious and continually evolving. As such, it has become a crucial component in defining various forms of identity (individual and collective) as influenced by nation, class, gender and historical period.

Pop Music, Culture and Identity investigates how this enhanced status shapes the iconography of celebrity, provides an ever-expanding archive for generational memory and accelerates the impact of new technologies on performing, packaging and global marketing. The series gives particular emphasis to interdisciplinary approaches that go beyond musicology and seeks to validate the informed testimony of the fan alongside academic methodologies.

Herpetological Proportions

A colleague of mine, Margaret Clark at Wilfrid Laurier University, recently wrote me a few eloquently flattering lines on my Blake and Jim Morrison essay in Blake 2.0. I’m so tickled with them that I have to share them:

Though the topic alone boggled the mind at first glance, and I initially chuckled at Huxley’s assertion that Blake was of the ‘mental species’ that is ‘visionaries all the time’ (I think Huxley may have underplayed the possible influence of all those production chemicals on Blake’s poor head!), that section quickly took a dark turn with many deft transitions between Blake, Morrison, and Milton‘s verse. By the end, though you never explicitly used the term ‘ouroboros’, I was given to imagine a centuries-long self-consuming circle-jerk of decidedly herpetological proportions.

Blake, Gender and Culture: new book on its way!

Helen Bruder and I are editing a collection of essays that has grown out of our conference in Oxford in summer 2010, Blake, Gender and Culture in the Twenty-First Century.

The collection is called Blake, Gender and Culture and is forthcoming from Pickering & Chatto in summer 2012, as part of their series (edited by Lynn Botelho), The Body, Gender and Culture.

Blake, Gender and Culture displays the exuberance that comes of combining gender and sexuality studies with historicist approaches in current work on William Blake. Lifting the veil from the secrets of the past can have an erotic frisson, responding to Blake’s own sexually charged mythology of historical change. Casting an erotic gaze on history illuminates the shadows, and enlightens the broader scene of Blake’s own thought and surrounding culture, shedding new light on ours in turn.

The contents range in their interests from hermaphroditism and androgyny to masculinity and performance, from biology and reproduction to political economy and empire. Particular strengths running through the essays are a fascination with religion, spirituality, and the relationship between the body and the soul, and rich attention to Blake’s visual art.

Essay on Blake, suckling, and swaddling

For an exciting collection edited by Hatsuko Niimi and Masashi Suzuki, titled A Firm Perswasion: Essays in British Romanticism, just out from Sairyusha, I’ve written an essay, “‘Nourishd with milk ye serpents’: Blake, Infant Nursing and Family Bonds”.

It looks at the hot topics in infant care in the late eighteenth century — breastfeeding and swaddling — and argues that Blake is at odds with his fellow radical thinkers. Swaddling was considered a symbol of oppression and arbitrary power, while maternal breastfeeding was idealized as a route to individual virtue and political regeneration. Blake, however, considers suckling as constraining as swaddling — yes, ye serpents, emotional bonds are as oppressive as physical ones. If Blake sticks it to smothering mothers and tyrannical fathers, at the same time, he sees nurses, and non-biological parent figures generally, in an interestingly positive light.

Rousseau is the granddaddy of this discourse of radical childrearing, but my special focus is on Mary Wollstonecraft, including her incredibly poignant letters to that undeserving rat Gilbert Imlay, and lessons written for her young daughter Fanny, possibly just before one of her suicide attempts. I also look at poems by Ann Yearsley, and Mary Lamb (more fraught parent-child relationships there). It’s all put in the context of medical writing (as ever, read for its literary as well as its scientific and cultural juicyness), particularly William Cadogan’s (hilarious) Essay upon Nursing, and a book by Benjamin Lara that Wollstonecraft reviewed (quite positively), An Essay on the Injurious Custom of Mothers not suckling their own Children.

Out now! Blake 2.0: William Blake in Twentieth-Century Art, Music and Culture

Blake 2.0 has just been published by Palgrave, edited by Steve Clark, Jason Whittaker, and myself. It’s a collection of essays on the reception of Blake beyond the traditionally literary.

It has my essay on Blake and Jim Morrison in it (to accompany the posts on the subject on Jason’s Zoamorphosis blog), along with many other choice pieces: particularly in the realm of Blake and pop music, there are essays on Blake and Bob Dylan; Nick Cave, Julian Cope, the Libertines and Billy Bragg; as well as Blake set to music, and ‘covers’ of  ‘Jerusalem’ (aka ‘And did those feet…).

Blake said of his designs, ‘Tho’ I call them Mine I know they are not Mine’. Then who owns Blake? Where does his work begin and end? There is something about reading and viewing Blake’s multimedia which spurs creation in response. His reception goes far beyond academic criticism because he is more than just a literary figure: artist, printmaker, philosopher, revolutionary, visionary, Blake has always been more than words on a page. This volume follows some of his digital and analog regenerations in the fields of comics, cultural criticism, copyright; sculpture, surrealism, art history, art therapy; film, folk, rock, pop, and the afterlife of Blake’s own music and lyrics. A variety of virtual selves has been created for Blake, his works, and his audience by the twentieth-century dissemination across a wide variety of media, and the more recent interactive possibilities raised by Web 2.0 as technology and as concept.

‘A ground-breaking series of essays on the widely-spread and dynamic influence of Blake’s composite art on the artistic practices of the twentieth century, right up to the emerging digital age.’ – Professor Edward Larrissy, Queen’s University Belfast, UK

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