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Vol. 47 no. 4: Spring 2014

Steve Clark, Tristanne Connolly, and Jason Whittaker, eds., Blake 2.0: William Blake in Twentieth-Century Art, Music and Culture

  • Grant F. Scott
13 March 2014
13 Mar. 2014


The editors of Blake 2.0 are keenly aware of the digital moment and the widespread reassessment of the humanities that is currently underway. They tap into the growing excitement over the digital humanities and attempt to reinvent Blake studies by offering a collection of essays on Blake’s “ongoing regeneration” in a new virtual world (1). The authors are engaged by the “broader possibilities of digitalization and web dissemination” and they set out to examine Blake’s virtual selves as they appear in the “processes of translation, mutation, proliferation into other media” (2). Another title for this collection might have been Anxiety of Influence 2.0, as many of the essays rethink Harold Bloom’s patrilineal model of literary competition for the twenty-first century. In place of his Freudian “writer-on-writer” contest (3), they propose alternative theories of influence based on the new media. Most of the reception studies assembled here focus on the transformation of Blake’s work as it is appropriated in film, music, sculpture, graphic novels, and digital art, and they find that “agency can occur across a network” (4). Indeed, one of the threads that recurs time and again is the role of the author, the problem of ownership and possession, the conundrum of “mineness,” as the editors state. What happens to the author function in the new digital surround? Is there still a recognizable self, or has nineteenth- and twentieth-century selfhood vanished into an evanescent cloud of virtual selves? Where is Blake 1.0 and does he still matter? Or has he become like Urizen, “Unknown, unprolific! / Self-closd,” an “all-repelling” book of brass? These questions cut to the quick of the collection.