With Blake and Conflict Palgrave Macmillan extends its role as the academic press now most consistently showcasing new Blake scholarship. The volume presents selected revised papers from a conference of the same title held in Oxford in 2006. Although it does not entirely surmount the miscellaneous quality that most conference anthologies have, synergies among several contributions provide a fairly strong thematic coherence.
Sarah Haggarty and Jon Mee’s introduction outlines two kinds of conflict as salient for the volume, both involving the conversation of “Visionary forms dramatic” that Blake envisions in humanity’s future (Jerusalem 98, E 257). The first centers on ideological or intellectual conflict as an aspect of pluralistic harmony: Blake, the editors say, imagines “the kind of community that arises from the communication between differences” (4). A second, more mundane, type of conflict involves Blake’s contentious “relationships with his precursors and precursor texts,” and these too, for the editors, are relationships among “Contraries,” so that conflict emerges as a “risk inherent in fully engaging with the other” (4, 5). This breakdown, however, only partly accounts for the volume’s contents; more than half the essays involve “conflict” with recent views of Blake or Blake-like ideas as complicit with imperialism and its ideological categories, with elite political domination, or with masculinist gender conceptions. These essays suggest a turn away from a “complicit” Blake by at least some now working in the field.