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Zoamorphosis: 250 years of Blake Mutations - iRes Research Salon with Jason Whittaker

You are warmly invited to join us for Research Salon with iRes Associate Researcher Jason Whittaker.

Tuesday 26 June 2007
14.00 - 16.00
Library Seminar C
Woodlane Campus

            And the Four Zoa's clouded rage East & West & North & South
            They change their situations, in the Universal Man.
            Albion groans, he sees the Elements divide before his face.                                                (Jerusalem 32.25-7, E178)

           such are the words of man to man
           In the great Wars of Eternity, in fury of Poetic Inspiration,
           To build the Universe stupendous: Mental forms Creating                                                (Milton, 30.18-20, E129)

This salon will present an overview of some of the ways in which Blake has been used and abused by generations of artists, writers, filmmakers and musicians from the nineteenth to twenty-first centuries. Central to this approach to reception theory is the fact that Blake himself was more than happy, in texts such as The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and Milton to engage in negotiated and oppositional acts of reading with cultural figures and texts such as Milton and the Bible to produce fertile (mis)readings.

The presentation would trace three strands of reception: artistic influences from the Shoreham Ancients to the BritArt phenomenon of the 1990s and more recent works, in particular how his art can be used in surprising ways (from his inspiration on Palmer’s landscape painting, or Joel Peter Witkin’s grotesque interpretations of The Songs of Innocence and of Experience); visionary fiction and poetry, crossing boundaries from the Modernism of Yeats to science fiction such as the work of Ray Bradbury and J.G. Ballard; the use of the Blake ‘brand’ in areas of popular culture such as advertising, graphic novels (for example the Hellboy series and Alan Moore’s books) and movies (Silence of the Lambs, Bull Durham, Dead Man); and 'occult' lines of influence from Yeats and Ellis through an esoteric lineage via Aleister Crowley, Austin Osman Spare, the performance artist Genesis P-Orridge and alternative group Coil.

Such a list is not (cannot be) comprehensive, but the reason for offering a fairly broad overview is to underline the variety of the Blakean text as performative, one in which conflict and division is as important as any search for an authoritative unity. Such a reading is an act of violence on Blake, but it also demonstrates a furious Gadamerian play where we encounter the horizon of the other: rather than simply becoming what we behold, zoamorphosis is part of the creative wars of eternity.

Jason Whittaker

Jason Whittaker is Senior Lecturer on Journalism and English with Media Studies and iRes Associate Researcher at University College Falmouth. His area of research expertise is the reception of the works of William Blake since the post-war period, but he also has twelve years experience as a new technology journalist, with a variety of books and papers on the Internet and new media, as well as Blake's influence on contemporary artists, writers and thinkers.
Jason's work on Blake has taken him into graphic novels, films, music and psychogeopraphy, as well as the more traditional areas of literature and art. He is the co-author with Shirley Dent of Radical Blake: Influence and Afterlife, and co-editor of Blake, Modernity and Popular Culture (with Steve Clark). His current research projects involve a study of the hymn 'Jerusalem' as part of English national culture in the twentieth century, as well as an exploration of Blake's influence in terms of mutation.