Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


The works of William Blake are notoriously strange. Multimedia artifacts with stylized illustrations and texts that have unusual forms and proper names, they evade the limits of the familiar. But such an evasion is not simply aesthetic. For Blake, the familiar world is entangled in a web of false paradigms that, whether formal or political, alienate individuals from their proper selves. "Familiarity" is an apparently innocuous term that masks easy distinctions between what is proper and what is alien--distinctions that delineate everything from genres to nations and so place invisible, but effective, limits on what can be said and, more crucially for Blake, imagined.;Focussing on Blake's printed works, the present study examines the political implications of the poet's defamiliarizing strategies. Of particular concern is Blake's resistance to linearity and the closure which it facilitates as a resistance to the totalizing narratives that supported the hegemony of his day. By offering alternative forms of history, and alternative perspectives on a set of events, as well as inscribing non-linear, acausal connections between events, Blake disrupts the forms as well as the content of hegemonic discourse. By publishing his work, moreover, he does not simply critique such discourse but complicates the cultural domain by inserting his own forms and ideas. Working with a well-established model in which texts circulate through the public body like diseases or envigorating agents (particularly sterilizing fires and vaccines), Blake envisions circulated radical discourse as an active defense against the false, pestilential, codes of familiarity that constrain society. The clash of radical and hegemonic discourses creates a hybrid space in which change is probable, and totalization impossible.;But there is a danger in this. In the early works, Blake limits himself to the subversion of prevailing paradigms. In Milton, however, Blake begins to piece together his critical stances to form his own vision of the renovated nation, a vision that is completed in Jerusalem. While retaining subversive strategies such as multiperspectivism and defamiliarizing settings, Blake can only use hegemonic strategies to put his own system into place. Submerging difference in a totalizable system and imagining a counter-colonization that sweeps the globe, Blake's discourse becomes hybrid, infected by the very paradigms that he had so long contested.



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