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William Blake (1757-1827)

A selective list of online literary criticism for the nineteenth-century English Romantic poet and artist William Blake, with links to reliable biographical and introductory material and signed, peer-reviewed, and scholarly literary criticism


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Introduction & Biography [all free]

"William Blake." Encyclopedia-type introduction to Blake, his biography, themes, and techniques, with text for some of his most famous poems. Published by The Poetry Foundation, a project of (Poetry magazine).

"William Blake." A brief biography and introduction to William Blake, and text for some of his best-known poems. From the prestigious Academy of American Poets.

"Poet's Corner - William Blake." A short biography from educational publisher Gale/Cengage.

"William Blake Online." Contents: "One of the Gothic artists" (a chronology of Blake's life); "In the furnace of Lambeth's Vale" (maps sites in London that have a link to Blake); "Chambers of the Imagination" (examines the characters in Blake's work); "Many formidable works" (explores in detail two of Blake's poems, "Songs of Innocence and of Experience" and "Jerusalem"). Exhibition at the Tate Museum, London, 2000-2001.


Literary Criticism

Baulch, David M. "The Sublime of the Bible." On Blake's Milton and the sources of Blake's construction of the sublime. Romanticism on the Net 3 (1996).

Bloom, Harold. "Introduction" to William Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1987). Discusses "The Little Black Boy," "The Sick Rose," "Ah Sunflower," "London," and other Songs [subscription service].

Castellano, Katey. "'The Road of Excess Leads to the Palace of Wisdom': Alternative Economies of Excess in Blake's Continental Prophecies." On Blake's political position and his thoughts and feelings about the French revolution. Papers on Language and Literature (2006).

Eliot, T.S. "Blake." The great modernist poet and critic T. S. Eliot writes that Blake's poetry has "a peculiar honesty, which, in a world too frightened to be honest, is peculiarly terrifying. It is an honesty against which the whole world conspires, because it is unpleasant. Blake’s poetry has the unpleasantness of great poetry." The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism (1922).

Essick, Robert and Joseph Viscomi. "An Inquiry into Blake's Method of Color Printing." On Blake's method of printing his illuminated books. Blake, an Illustrated Quarterly 35 (2001/2002).

Fulford, Tim. "A Romantic technologist and Britain's Little Black Boys." ["The Chimney Sweeper"]. Wordsworth Circle (2002) [subscription service].

Gilpin, G. H. "William Blake and the world's body of science." Gilpin contends that The Book of Urizen "satirizes theories of creation favored by the reason-bound and theoretical science of the Enlightenment." Studies in Romanticism (2004).

Goldberg, Brian. "Byron, Blake, and Heaven." On Blake's "The Little Black Boy" and "The Chimney Sweeper," and Byron's Don Juan and Cain. Romanticism on the Net 27 (2002).

Goslee, Nancy Moore. "'Soul' in Blake's writing: redeeming the word." Wordsworth Circle (2002) [subscription service].

Guth, Deborah. "Innocence Recalled: The Implied Reader in Blake's Songs of Innocence." Colby Library Quarterly" 25, 1 (1989).

Hilton, Nelson. "William Blake, Songs of Innocence and of Experience," in The Blackwell Companion to Romanticism (1998).

Hilton, Nelson. "The Tyger--An Annotated Bibliography. Summary of critical interpretations of Blake's "The Tyger" and bibliography, on Prof. Hilton's web site.

Höltgen, Karl Josef. "William Blake and the Emblem Tradition." On the connection between Blake's illuminated books and the Renaissance emblem tradition, which combined a motto, a symbolic picture, and an epigram. EESE (2002).

Hutchings, Kevin. "Gender, Environment, and Imperialism in Visions of the Daughters of Albion." Romanticism and Ecology, Romantic Circles November 2001.

Linkin, Harriet Kramer. "The Function of Dialogue in The Book of Thel." Colby Library Quarterly" 23, 2 (1987).

Linkin, Harriet Kramer. "The Language of Speakers in Songs of Innocence and of Experience." On Blake's language and style in the Songs, including "The Chimney Sweeper," "The Little Black Boy," "A Poison Tree," and "The Human Abstract." Romanticism Past and Present 10, 2 (1986) [subscription service].

Mee, Jon. "Blake's politics in history." In The Cambridge Companion to William Blake (2003) [first paragraph only].

Mee, Jon. "William Blake, Songs of Innocence and Experience." In A Companion to Literature from Milton to Blake (2000) [subscription service].

Miller, Dan. "Contrary Revelation: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell." Studies in Romanticism 24, 4 (Winter 1985) [subscription service].

Munteanu, Anca Violeta. "William Blake and the transformations of the Renaissance notion of melancholy." PhD dissertation, 1999.

Pfau, Thomas. "Bringing About the Past: Prophetic Memory in Kant, Godwin, and Blake." Romanticism and Conspiracy, Romantic Circles July 2004.

Pierce, John B. "Rewriting Milton: Orality and Writing in Blake's Milton." Studies in Romanticism 2000 [first half free].

Plotnitsky, Arkady. "Chaosmic Orders: Nonclassical Physics, Allegory, and the Epistemology of Blake’s Minute Particulars." Romanticism and Complexity, Romantic Circles March 2001.

Prather, Russell. "William Blake and the problem of progression" [On The Four Zoas, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell]. Studies in Romanticism (2007).

Punter, David. "William Blake." 17 July, 2001. Literary Encyclopedia. Eds. Robert Clark, Emory Elliott, Janet Todd. An introduction to William Blake, from a database that provides signed literary criticism by experts in their field and is available to individuals for a reasonably-priced subscription. Songs of Innocence (1789); Songs of Experience (1794); America, A Prophecy (1793) [subscription service].

Reilly, Susan P. "Blake's Poetics of Sound in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell." Reilly contends that by combining many genres and choosing genres which originate in sound or speech, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell merges William Blake's Higher Criticism with an emphasis on oral culture. Romanticism on the Net 16 (1999).

Ripley, Wayne C. "William Blake and the Hunt circle." On Blake's clashes with Lee Hunt over the subjects of Methodism and religious enthusiasm, which shaped Blake's defense of the Methodists and his conception of literary and religious enthusiasm in Milton and Jerusalem. Adds to a discussion begun by Jon Mee in Dangerous Enthusiasm (1992). Studies in Romanticism 2011 [first half free].

Schierenbeck, Daniel. "'Sublime labours': aesthetics and political economy in Blake's Jerusalem." Studies in Romanticism (2007) [first half free].

Sheasby, Ronald E. "On 'Heritage.'" The influence of William Blake on the African-American poet Countee Cullen. Modern American Poetry (Univ. of Illinois).

Simpson, Michael. "Who didn't kill Blake's fly: moral law and the rule of grammar in Songs of Experience" [on "The Fly"]. Style (1996).

Smith, K. E. "Our Immortal Day: Songs of Innocence." On Blake's radical vision of innocence as, not a condition belonging to childhood alone, but the state where the human being in fully integrated and each person is sympathetic to the other; and on the dialectical relationship between innocence and experience. Poems covered include "Night," "The Divine Image," "The Sick Rose," "The Tyger," "Spring," "Infant Joy," "The Little Black Boy," "A Cradle Song," "The Chimney Sweeper," "Holy Thursday," "Nurse's Song," "The Ecchoing Green," and "The Lamb." In An Analysis of William Blake's Early Writings and Designs to 1790 Including Songs of Innocence (1999) [subscription service].

Yoder, R. Paul. "Unlocking Language: Self-Similarity in Blake’s Jerusalem." Romanticism and Complexity, Romantic Circles March 2001.

Youngquist, Paul. "Criticism and the Experience of Blake's Milton." Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 30, 4 (Autumn 1990) [subscription service].


Web Sites & Scholarly Journals

Eaves, Morris, Robert Essick, Joseph Viscomi, eds. The William Blake Archive. Archive of Blake's illuminated books, commercial book illustrations, prints, drawings and paintings, manuscripts and typographic works. Includes extensive detail about all known copies and variants of the illuminated books.

"Digital Designs on Blake." How new media representation of William Blake's work provides a heuristic for inquiry into Blake's texts. Ed. Ron Broglio. Romantic Circles, January 2005.

Blake: an illustrated quarterly. A scholarly journal devoted to the study of the life and works of William Blake. Some sample full-text articles are available.

"The Web Concordances." Ed. Rob Watt. Six concordances with wordlists: P.B. Shelley's Selected Poems; Coleridge's The Ancyent Marinere; Keats's Odes 1819; Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience; Wordsworth and Coleridge's Lyrical Ballads 1798; Gerard Manley Hopkins' Poems First Edition, 1918. Also software to make your own concordance.

"Children's Literature." The development of children's books and their illustration, covers John Newbery, George Cruikshank, William Blake, Edward Lear, John Tenniel, and Kate Greenaway. From an undergraduate course in the history of children's literature at Indiana Univ.

Romanticism on the Net. Ed. Michael Eberle-Sinatra. An international, peer-reviewed electronic journal devoted to British Romantic studies, an impressive scholarly enterprise that has been making essays freely available since 1996.

Romantic Circles. Eds. Neil Fraistat, Steven E. Jones, and Carl Stahmer. "A refereed scholarly website devoted to the study of Romantic-period literature and culture." An innovative publication on topics in Romanticism.

"A Romantic Natural History." Ed. Ashton Nichols. The relationships between literary works and natural history in the century before Darwin, with articles on Blake and other Romantics.


Reviews [all free]

Baulch, David M. A review of Blake, Nationalism, and the Politics of Alienation by Julia M. Wright. Romanticism on the Net 36-37 (2004-2005).

- - -. A review of William Blake by Victor N. Paananen. Romanticism on the Net 8 (1997).

Freeman, Kathryn. A review of Stranger from Paradise: a Biography of William Blake by G.F. Bentley. Criticism (2002).

Ferber, Michael. A review of William Blake: the Creation of the Songs: from Manuscript to Illuminated Printing by Michael Phillips. Criticism (2001).

Hagstrum, Jean H. A review of Blake and Tradition by Kathleen Raine. Modern Philology 68 (1970). [First page of article only.]

O'Neill, Michael. A review of William Blake, New Casebooks ed. by David Punter. Romanticism on the Net 7 (1997). Part of a round-up review.

Scott, Grant. A review of William Blake in a Newtonian World: Essays on Literature as Art and Science by Stuart Peterfreund. Criticism (1999).


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