William Blake, the most protean figure in British culture, is always in the process of being re-born, re-worked and re conceived. It is simply a fact of historical life that he is an omnipresent influence in fine art, visual culture, music, literature - and the wider cultural scene. This process, which began with the critical recovery of Blake within Pre-Raphaelitism and Aestheticism, intensified in the first four or five decades of the last century, when Arthur Symons, W. B. Yeats, Laurence Binyon, G. K. Chesterton, Stanley Spencer, Paul Nash, Eric Gill, Hubert Parry, Vaughan Williams, Herbert Read, Humphrey Jennings, Cecil Collins, Kathleen Raine, Anthony Blunt and many others turned him into a persistent and vital part of the cultural fabric of national life.
This informal workshop spotlights Blake’s impact upon the critical sensibilities of British art, culture and letters. It chronicles and explains the nature and trajectory of that impact, and accounts for the multiple and contradictory impulses with which Blake was identified throughout a period in which diverse groups battled to appropriate what they saw as his ‘message.’ For avant-gardists, his message was inspirational affirmation of the body, intoxicated experience and the worship of energy; for Socialists his message was cultural cooperation, social emancipation and the abiding authority of folkic and craft wisdom; for neo-Romantics, his message was the authority of individual genius and the human imagination, the revolt against materialism, the industrial-technological order and mass society; for traditionalists, his message was the authority of the universal symbolic order underpinning Western Civilisation.
Works by Blake and Blake-inspired artists will be displayed at this event. On top of that, there will be plenty of time for open discussion in which we can review how Blake has become a major force in modern and contemporary cultural life through exhibitions, films, multi-media events and other literary, musical and artistic activities.
Naomi Billingsley (John Rylands Research Institute, Universeity of Manchester) completed her PhD in 2015, is preparing Blake’s Christology for publication.
Keri Davies (Independent Scholar) has published many important essays, articles and book chapters on Blake, Blake recovery criticism and Blakean networks.
Sibylle Erle (English Studies, Bishop Grosseteste University) is the author of Blake, Lavater and Physiognomy and co-editor of The Reception of Blake in Europe (2018).
Doug Field (American Studies, University of Manchester) is the author of All Those Strangers: The Art and Lives of James Baldwin (2015), co-curator of Off-Beat: Jeff Nuttall and the International Underground (2016-17), founder of the James Baldwin Review. His new research project examines British and American avant-garde writers of the 1960s and 1970s.
Darren Pih is Exhibitions & Displays Curator at Tate Liverpool.
Mike Sanders (English Studies, University of Manchester) is the author of Chartist Poetry: Aesthetics, Politics and History (2009) and numerous articles on British culture and cultural politics in the nineteenth century
Colin Trodd (Art History and Visual Studies, University of Manchester) is author of Visions of Blake: William Blake in the Art World, 1830-1930 (2012) and co-editor (with Jason Whittaker) of William Blake: The Man from the Future?, a Special Edition of Visual Culture in Britain (2018).
Nick Tromans (Curator, Watts Gallery) is the author of Hope: The Life and Times of a Victorian Icon (2011), The Art of GF Watts (2017) and many other books on British art and artists.
Jason Whittaker (English Studies, University of Lincoln) is the author of William Blake and the Myths of Britain (1999) and co-editor of many publications on Blake’s critical after-life.