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Vol. 50 no. 4: Spring 2017

Roger Lüdeke, Zur Schreibkunst von William Blake: Ästhetische Souveränität und politische Imagination

  • Sibylle Erle
7 April 2017
07 Apr. 2017


In contrast to William Blake’s popular twentieth-century reception, which was dominated by his fans’ fascination with his visionary art and lyrical poetry, a substantial proportion of his recent academic audience has carved a poet-persona whose religious diction is closely linked to his opinions about the American and French Revolutions, as well as the 1790s, the decade of political repression in Britain. The main achievements of these academic interpretations, based on archival work and derived from historical contextualization, Lüdeke finds to be summarized in Jackie DiSalvo’s introduction to Blake, Politics, and History (1998). In his own nearly fifty-page introduction Lüdeke frequently returns to Jon Mee’s chapter in that collection. What starts off as a narrowly focused assessment of Blake studies and historicism soon expands into a complex discussion of the “defining tension between the religious and the political” (“konstitutive Spannungsverhältnis zwischen Religiösem und Politischem”) (9). Taking his starting points from Eric J. Hobsbawm and Jürgen Habermas, as well as Mee and Saree Makdisi, Lüdeke summarizes the outcomes of the research on the public sphere and its self-declared prophets, enthusiasts, antinomians, millenarians, and dissenters. Critics, he asserts, now perceive religion as a mode of compensation, affecting, in turn, the interiorization and aestheticization of art (12-13). Lüdeke wants to reconsider certain investigative leads and to reexamine the relationship between the political and the religious by focusing on radical and protestant discursive practices and textual strategies (14).