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Dangerous EnthusiasmWilliam Blake and the Culture of Radicalism in the 1790s$
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Jon Mee

Print publication date: 1994

Print ISBN-13: 9780198183297

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198183297.001.0001

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‘Northern Antiquities’: Bards, Druids, and Ancient Liberties

‘Northern Antiquities’: Bards, Druids, and Ancient Liberties

2 ‘Northern Antiquities’: Bards, Druids, and Ancient Liberties
Dangerous Enthusiasm

Jon Mee

Oxford University Press

This chapter starts by saying that many of the prophetic features of William Blake's writings and designs discussed in the previous chapter have a double signification of origins which makes it difficult to ascribe them to a biblical model with complete certainty. The parabolical style of Blake's illuminated books draws not only on the Bible but also conforms in various ways to more general 18th-century conceptions of what primitive literature was supposed to be like. The chapter states that Blake's primitivism was part of a desire, widespread among radicals in the 1790s, to bring previously excluded currents into the public domain. The broader tendency represented the intensification into an explicitly political enterprise of the interest in the antique, exotic, and vulgar which typified the cultural production of the second half of the 18th century.

Keywords:   William Blake, paradoxical style, primitivism, Northern Antiquities, Bards, Druids, ancient liberties

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