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Karen Mulhallen, ed., Blake in Our Time

Joseph Wittreich

Abstract


Blake in Our Time is a magnificent tribute to G. E. Bentley, Jr.—one of the titans in Blake studies of the last, as well as current, century—whose work has “shifted the focus of Blake criticism from formalism and symbolism to the ‘Minute Particulars’ of Blake’s life and work,” with Bentley thus launching what is here described as “now the most productive field of inquiry in Blake studies” ([3]).  Were the title not already in service, this anthology might better be called Blake in His Time inasmuch as its core chapters fix attention on Blake’s friends, patrons, and fellow artists: Stephen and Harriet Mathew, John Flaxman, William Hayley, Thomas Butts, George Cumberland, and George Richmond.  On the other hand, the title as we have it drives the idea that a principal activity of Blake studies in our time is the re-situation of the poet in his own time and, with that, the rehabilitation of text and context.  Even more, the title underscores the paradox that the preoccupation of Blake studies in our time is with Blake in his own time; that only after we return Blake to his original cultural context does he emerge as a poet speaking powerfully to our own age from a frontier of religious speculation and through an ideology that has survived its own apparent demise.  Among the many outstanding essays in this volume, those by Robert N. Essick, Mary Lynn Johnson, Martin Butlin, and Morton D. Paley are especially illuminating, while the coda, by Jerome McGann, holds its own bright light in Bentley’s sunshine.


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