Morris Eaves


Morris EavesLong ago, just before I took my comprehensive exams in grad school, I threw over Faulkner and American literature and took up with Blake and romanticism. A self-shocking move in the short run, but I was young, reckless, and fascinated by pictures as well as texts and by processes as well as products. This was the 60s after all, when people got up to things they might have suppressed in more sensible times. And though I had left religion behind in West Monroe, Louisiana, I had a lingering thing about the Bible (my wife Georgia and I named our first son Obadiah—he has my Blake dissertation to blame). I almost failed my exams but, in the long run, Blake did fit the bill. There’s more to say—about the imagemaking crafts, editorial theory and practice, and the wide world of romantic aesthetics—but in any case the chance to co-edit the Blake Newsletter with Morton Paley, who had started it in 1967, was both an unmissable opportunity and a stamp of confirmation on my previous change of course. It was 1970, and I was a new assistant professor of English at the University of New Mexico; Morton was a far more exalted presence at Berkeley. We quickly learned what being co-editors means and how to deal at any time or distance, and so it has remained during the forty-plus years since.

Two decades later, the William Blake Archive fortuitously emerged at the intersection of my personal interests and activities, including the collaboration on a printed volume, The Early Illuminated Books (1993), with my other friends and co-editors, Bob Essick and Joe Viscomi. It is a sign of the times that the Blake Archive is now integrating four decades of Blake/An Illustrated Quarterly. For anyone interested in the goals, history, and future of the archive in relation to the quarterly and the future of Blake studies in general, I’d recommend Kari Kraus’s interview (published simultaneously online in Romantic Circles and in print in Studies in Romanticism). For a CV and more about my own ever odder, it seems, less coherent interests in communicating across generations, try the faculty profile on the University of Rochester’s English department’s web site.