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 seriously reconsider ths history of the 1790s - the turbulent and revolutionary decade in which they first emerged. Taking into account the poet's unique brand of literary and artistic production, Makdisi challenges the idea that to understand Blake historically one must assimilate him within the radical struggle against the order of the Old Regime. 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. William Blake and the Impossible History of the 1790s should immediately take its place as a valuable study of one of English Romanticism's most popular figures.