Bodies of horror

The Gothic is haunted by the ghost of William Blake. Scholars of the Gothic have long recognised Blake’s affinity with the genre, often invoking his name, characters, and images in passing. Yet, to date, no major scholarly study focused on Blake’s intersection with the Gothic exists. William Blake’s gothic imagination seeks to redress this disconnect and, in the words of another ghost, to lend a serious hearing to a dimension of Blake’s work we all somehow know to be vital and yet remains understudied. The essays here collected do not simply identify Blake’s Gothic conventions but, thanks to recent scholarship on affect, psychology, and embodiment in Gothic studies, reach deeper into the tissue of anxieties that take confused form through this notoriously nebulous historical, aesthetic, and narrative mode. The collection opens with papers touching on literary form, history, lineation, and narrative in Blake’s work, establishing contact with major topics in Gothic studies. The volume, however, eventually narrows its focus to Blake’s bloody, nervous bodies, through which he explores various kinds of Gothic horror related to reproduction, anatomy, sexuality, affect, and materiality. Rather than his transcendent images, this collection attends to Blake’s ‘dark visions of torment’. Drawing on the recent interest in Gothic studies on visual arts, this volume also highlights Blake’s engravings and paintings, productions that in both style and content suggest a rich, underexplored archive of Gothic invention. This collection will appeal to students of Romanticism, the Gothic, art history, media/mediation studies, popular mythography, and adaptation studies.

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In the robust and expanding field of Gothic studies, William Blake remains a spectral, marginal figure. Bundock and Effinger’s Introduction opens by exploring Blake’s prominence in contemporary Gothic art and culture, a fact made ironic given the relative dearth of scholarly work on Blake’s Gothic sensibility. Bundock and Effinger suggest how the Gothic as an historiographical, affective, and aesthetic concept might inform Blake in several substantial ways. The Introduction then expands in four directions. The first considers terror, horror, and the ‘Gothic body’ in Blake. The second considers the intersection of Blake and the Gothic in terms of visual art and iconography. The third surveys extant criticism on Blake and the Gothic to illustrate the hitherto missed opportunity this collection attempts to take. The fourth and final section is a ‘descriptive catalogue’ of the chapters that follow, offering summaries of each contribution and explaining the order of presentation.

in William Blake's Gothic imagination