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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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Conclusion: A Radical without an Audience?

Conclusion: A Radical without an Audience?

(p.214) Conclusion: A Radical without an Audience?
Dangerous Enthusiasm

Jon Mee

Oxford University Press

The conclusion discusses the issue of the audience and reception of William Blake's work which Paul Mann has suggested as the most egregiously underasked question in Blake studies. This book has stated that it is more likely that Blake intended to make use of whatever means were available to reach a public. He continued, for instance, to produce his own paintings and prints while he was publishing illuminated books. In closing, this chapter puts forward a less familiar context for understanding Blake, tracing his distinctiveness to a creative engagement with the Revolution controversy, many parts of which are excluded from our received cultural history. In this context, Blake's desire to rouse the faculties to act becomes something more than a reiteration of the Romantic emphasis on the power of the poetic Imagination. It is part of a dangerous enthusiasm for the ‘rights of the living’ to which radicals as different as Richard Brothers and Tom Paine also subscribed in the turbulent years of the 1790s.

Keywords:   revolutionary controversy, radicals, poetic imagination, William Blake, Paul Mann

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