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News and Commentary from the British Association for Romantic Studies

The Artist of the Future Age

The Artist of the Future Age: William Blake, Neo-Romanticism, Counterculture and Now

John Rylands Library, Deansgate, Manchester
11 October 2019

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Much has been written since the 1940s about the idea of William Blake as a rebel of cultural thought, a dreamer of alternative realities, a preparer of the way, an oracle of unfettered literary creativity and a source of cult-like devotion; but relatively little attention has been given to considering how Blake’s art captured the attention of successive generations of modern artists, art critics and cultural commentators. The purpose of The Artist of the Future Age: William Blake, Neo-Romanticism, Counter-Culture and Now is to investigate how Blake has been imagined as a friend of the future, a revolutionary, whose art – or ideas about art – outran his own period and ‘predicted’ later developments in visual culture.

Within these broad limits, the papers, talks and conversations at the event are intended to explore a range of artistic and critical engagements with Blake from neo-romanticism, the counterculture to the current day. From this we hope to achieve two things. First, to outline the cultural richness and variation of appraisals of Blake’s art and ideas since the 1940s. Second, to spotlight common critical patterns of identification, engagement, and participation throughout this period. In consequence, we intend to indicate how, why and in what conditions Blake has been renewed in and by modern European culture.

This free event contains presentations by leading Blake scholars and culminates with an extended conversation between the legendary poet Michael Horovitz and the distinguished curator Bryan Biggs, both of whom have deep attachments to Blake, his art and thought. The presentations take the form of specific case studies arranged in broadly chronological fashion, all of which are designed to indicate some of the distinctive characteristics of the versions of Blake that recur in a period of almost eighty years. Some of these presentations are micro-engagements with Blakean moments; others are focused on the ways in which Blakean culture is embedded in a wider range of artistic and political debates. The event will include an object-based session examining Blake and Blake-related holdings at the John Rylands Library.

Supported by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and the John Rylands Research Institute.

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Full Programme

12.30 Introduction (Mike Sanders/Doug Field) (The University of Manchester), Historic Reading Room

12.35- 12.55 Opportunity to see Blake and Blake-related materials in Special Collections with Anne Anderton (John Rylands Library), Bible Room

1.00 Colin Trodd (The University of Manchester) and Miriam Dafydd (The Natural History Museum) in conversation: Deep England-Blake & Neo-Romanticism, Historic Reading Room

1.20 David Hopkins (Glasgow University): Avant-Garde Blake: Culture and Counter-Culture in Britain post-1968, Historic Reading Room

1.40 Sibylle Erle (Bishop Grosseteste University): Ludwig Meidner in Exile and the ‘German’ Blake, Historic Reading Room

2.00-2.10 Questions (Chair: Mike Sanders), Historic Reading Room

2.10 Luke Walker (Roehampton University): Blake in the 1960s: British and European Counterculture and Radical Reception, Historic Reading Room

2.30 James Riley (Cambridge University): Iain Sinclair, William Blake and the Visionary Poetry of the 1960s, Historic Reading Room

2.50-3.00 Questions and tea break (Chair: Doug Field), Historic Reading Room

3.10 Jason Whittaker (Lincoln University): The End of Counterculture: J.G. Ballard, Angela Carter, Ray Nelson and William Blake, Historic Reading Room,

3.30 Martin Myrone (Tate Britain): Blake at the Tate Gallery, Historic Reading Room

3.50-4.00: Questions (Chair: Colin Trodd), Historic Reading Room,

4.00- 4.30 Michael Horovitz and Bryan Biggs (The Bluecoat, Liverpool) (Chair: Doug Field, Mike Sanders), Michael Horovitz and Bryan Biggs in conversation about counter-cultural and contemporary visions of Blake and Blakean Politics, Historic Reading Room

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