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William Blake and the Impossible History of the 1790s

Modern scholars often find it difficult to account for the profound eccentricities in the work of William Blake, dismissing them as either ahistorical or simply meaningless. But with this pioneering study, Saree Makdisi develops a reliable and comprehensive framework for understanding these peculiarities. According to Makdisi, Blake’s poetry and drawings should compel us to reconsider the history of the 1790s. Tracing for the first time the many links among economics, politics, and religion in his work, Makdisi shows how Blake questioned and even subverted the commercial, consumerist, and political liberties that his contemporaries championed, all while developing his own radical aesthetic.

412 pages | 28 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2003

History: British and Irish History

Literature and Literary Criticism: British and Irish Literature, General Criticism and Critical Theory


"...Makdisi presents the reach and complexity of Blake's vision..."

Science and Society

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface and Acknowledgments
1. Introduction
2. Fierce Rushing: William Blake and the Cultural Politics of Liberty in the 1790s
3. Laboring at the Mill with Slaves
4. Weary of Time: Image and Commodity in Blake
5. Blake and Romantic Imperialism
6. Impossible History and the Politics of Life
7. Conclusion: Striving

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