William Blake attracts us for many reasons. He is an iconoclast, raging at the powers that be. His observations on the human condition seem prescient of modern psychology. He seems sexually modern, a spirit free of traditional restraints. He is a defender of the poor and an indefatigable opponent of privilege and authority. His is a plea for imagination and spirituality in a materialistic age.
He is a gifted lyricist, a sharp satirist, and a creator of profoundly symbolic and dense prophetic poetry. He is a strong visual artist in addition to being a poet, equally well known in the visual arts community and in the literary community. Each of his poems was produced as a complete work of art reminiscent of a medieval illuminated manuscript.
Adding to the romance, his work was virtually ignored in his own time, and he was thought to be at the least extremely eccentric, if not outright mad. Yet he has continued to inspire some of our best known poets and artists, from Rossetti to Yeats to Alan Ginsburg, as well as rock bands from the Doors to U2. His poem “Jerusalem” has become the national hymn of GB.
For these and other reasons Blake typically has been considered an anomaly, standing outside of and separate from the mainstream tradition of English letters. Whether viewed as a defender of Emotion and Imagination in the face of Rationalist Materialism or even as an arcane Hermeneutic scholar, Blake has resisted categorization and seems to stand outside the contexts of his own era.
Now however, in the last 20 years or so, scholarly efforts have created a historical context for Blake as a man of the 18th century, who echoed and reinvented many of his contemporaries’ voices from within the forgotten underclasses of English society.
From within this historical context Blake’s individual genius shines forth with renewed energy.
Mr. Kelley’s presentation includes numerous slides of Blake’s graphic images.
The discussion begins Thursday, November 29, at 7 PM. Come to the WordSpace headquarters at 415 North Tyler. Admission: FREE to members, $10 to others.