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Vol. 48 no. 4: Spring 2015

Karl Kroeber, Blake in a Post-Secular Era: Early Prophecies

  • J. B. Mertz
15 April 2015
15 Apr. 2015


Karl Kroeber (1926–2009) was a scholar of British romanticism, romantic visual art, and Native American literature, and his numerous writings include criticism on William Blake as well as occasional reviews for this journal. His death from cancer interrupted the completion of what would have been a much longer book, and the present work merely comprises what Kroeber “originally intended as introductory to a study of William Blake’s longest and most complex poems” (xxi) (that is, Vala or The Four Zoas, Milton a Poem, and Jerusalem the Emanation of the Giant Albion). As an “interrupted” work, Blake in a Post-Secular Era calls to mind Peter Fisher’s unfinished book, The Valley of Vision, which had the benefit of being edited for publication by no less a scholar than Northrop Frye after Fisher’s accidental death. In the case of Blake in a Post-Secular Era, not only has another eminent scholar stepped forward to edit an unfinished study of Blake, but the deceased author and his posthumous editor also worked together: Joseph Viscomi attended Kroeber’s “life-changing” seminar on Blake at Columbia University in 1975 (xiii), and Kroeber personally encouraged Viscomi to undertake his dissertation on Blake.