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Sarah Haggarty, ed., William Blake in Context


Alexander S. Gourlay

As editor of this collection, Haggarty recognizes the categorical and theoretical complexities of the undertaking and has wisely determined not to worry about them too much. She has assembled an impressive array of Romanticists and Blake specialists, most of them wise veterans, to write almost two-score essays in four broad overlapping categories of contexts or quasi-contexts. The result is very successful overall, even if reading it straight through is a bit like working one’s way through an encyclopedia from A to Z. The entries offer not only various contexts but also various (largely untheorized) conceptions of context itself. Most provide cogent, tactful reviews of insights from selected recent work clustered around recognized topics, and the quality of the essays is such that, for the next decade or so, I expect that readers will be peeking into the index and table of contents as the first step in exploring a new topic in Blake, or to remind themselves of other angles when a given critical approach is not helping, or to gather their thoughts before teaching a class. It will be particularly useful to beginners in Blake studies who need sound, authoritative generalizations about him, his work, and his times as a foundation for more particular discussions.


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