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Vol. 49 no. 4: Spring 2016

Roger Whitson and Jason Whittaker, William Blake and the Digital Humanities: Collaboration, Participation, and Social Media

  • Whitney Anne Trettien
15 April 2016
15 Apr. 2016


William Blake’s work has inspired a range of popular responses, from science fiction and comic books to films and popular anthems. “What,” ask Roger Whitson and Jason Whittaker, “do all of these references, adaptations, and transformations of Blake’s work add up to?”

Taking this question seriously demands, in Whitson and Whittaker’s estimation, “a truly social and digital media approach to Blake studies—one that can extend his influence beyond the literary approaches to his work and embrace the grassroots media ecosystem emerging in the early twenty-first century” (5). William Blake and the Digital Humanities sketches the outline of just such an approach. Drawing on trending topics in media studies and theory, Whitson and Whittaker chart new directions for the study and teaching of Blake, not just as an author but as what they call a “virtuality,” following Henri Bergson, Gilles Deleuze, and Levi Bryant: the “condition under which different Blakes are produced and reproduced” (28). Thus “William Blake” inheres not only in his verse but in the many “critical, editorial, and creative” manifestations that circulate in the participatory social network that signifies him as an authorial figure whose meaning is always coming into being. Inspired by Blake’s own prophecies, the authors dub these collective creative acts—the process of generating actual Blakes from this plane of virtuality—“zoamorphosis” (5).