English 331:  English Authors after 1800                                                                                                     

William Blake

Stephen C. Behrendt
319 Andrews; 472-1806
office: 12:30 - 2:00 TWR and by appointment


Required Texts:

The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake, ed. David V. Erdman
Blake, Songs of Innocence and of Experience
Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
Blake, America: A Prophecy and Europe: A Prophecy
Blake, the Book of Urizen
Kathleen Raine, William Blake

Recommended Optional Text:

William Blake: The Complete Illuminated Books, ed. David Bindman

Objectives of This Course:

William Blake (1757-1827) is famous as both a poet and a visual artist. He developed a type of illustrated poetry he called "illuminated poetry," in which virtually every page includes both words and visual images. Meanwhile, during Blake's lifetime the western world changed irreversibly as a consequence of three great revolutions : the Industrial, the American, and the French. Blake's poetry and visual art records his responses to these changes and his vision of the complex relationships among individuals, humanity, history, God, and the arts. Blake's poetry is more than just "The Tiger" and "The Lamb," which are his most famous works: he also composed longer and more difficult works that have fascinated and challenged readers for two centuries. In addition, he produced hundreds of exclusively visual works, including paintings, engravings, and illustrations to other authors' works.

Our plates will therefore be very full. We will study Blake's illuminated poetry and his visual art to better understand Blake's unique and ultimately optimistic prophetic vision of humanity and the modern world. In the process, we will explore both the life and times of this remarkable artist and writer. We will try to understand — through individual study, group work, discussion, and self-paced on-line work — to come to a greater appreciation of the particular challenges — and rewards — posed by Blake's complex interdisciplinary art. We will necessarily explore both the nature and the methodologies of scholarly inquiry into interdisciplinary art and into the particular aesthetic, critical, and theoretical problems inherent in works of art — like Blake's — that involve complex relationships among multiple media as well as among author, audience, texts, and textuality. In the process, we will consider the applicability of both traditional and technologically-enhanced study tools and approaches to this sort of art. 

Teaching Method and Course Procedures:

We will work in a computerized classroom in which everyone will be able to study Blake's illuminated poetry and his visual art in on-line form as well as in conventional print formats, illustrated and otherwise. Because every colored copy of Blake's poems is unique and different from other copies, the computers will allow us to study different versions side by side, as well as enable us to access relevant on-line supplementary materials. 

We will do much of our work in study groups, with only the basest minimum of lecture to provide essential background (or technological) information. In addition, everyone will be able to access a variety of on-line materials for study outside the classroom.

Course Requirements:

Your course grade will be based on the following components, in these weighted percentages:

Consistent attendance and discussion: 15%

NOTE: More than three absences will lower your course grade.

Participation in group work (including presentations): 15%

A research project arising from the subject matter of the course: 25%

Two examinations, a midterm (20%) and a final (25%)

What You Can Expect to Do in This Course:

The Department of English has recently articulated its expectations about what sort of skills, activities, and experiences students should expect to gain or sharpen in courses at various levels of the curriculum. For courses at the 300 level (like this one), you should expect to do the following:

            Engage in an intensive study of the subject matter of 19th-Century British literature, in both broadly inclusive terms and in more narrowly focused ones.

            Be aware that there are a variety of theoretical and critical approaches to the materials we will study and be able to apply at least one of these approahes to our work.

            Understand the purposes of primary and secondary research and be able to carry out research appropriate to the subject of this course.

            Engage in critical academic discourse, both in the classroom and on paper, employing language and forms of discourse suitable to the assigned task and to an audience of educated adults.


Additional Considerations:

I will try to be as fully available to you as my teaching and other commitments permit me to be. Please feel free to come chat with me about any aspect of the course: about any problems you may be having, insights you have gained, enthusiasms you have developed — whatever. I will keep my announced office hours unless something arises unexpectedly, in which case I (or someone else) will post an explanatory note. Because I am on campus a good deal, it is usually possible to arrange some alternative time to chat.