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Palgrave Macmillan

Blake's Drama

Theatre, Performance and Identity in the Illuminated Books

ISBN 9781137378002
Publication Date June 2014
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

Blake's Drama explores the implications of taking the 'Visionary forms dramatic' of William Blake literally, providing an alternative perspective on the long-standing critical debate on the text-image dynamic in his works. It reinterprets his multimedia productions – poetry, painting and engraving – as dramas which provoke a spectatorship called on to act, and argues that the resulting depiction of identity is paradoxically both essential and constructed. By employing an interdisciplinary approach that brings medieval, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century, as well as modern discourses on theatre into dialogue with contemporary theory, this book situates these works in the performance and visual culture of their time. Doing so reveals the theatrical as well as linguistic performativity of Blake's verbal-visual art form, offering an unconventional picture of Blake as invested in drama, action, exteriority, and the body.

Diane Piccitto holds a PhD from the University of Western Ontario. Before moving to London, UK, as an independent scholar, she was a Lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Zurich.

List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations
1. The Theatre of the Illuminated Books
2. Spectatorial Entrances: Where Brechtian Alienation Meets Medieval Presence 3. Staging Urizen: The Melodrama of Identity Formation
4. The Performativity of Inspiration: Action and Identity in Milton


"This book will change the way we think about Blake. Diane Piccitto shows what happens when Blake's own vivid concept of 'Visionary Forms Dramatic' is taken seriously. She applies the idea of drama to Blake's illuminated books both historically and conceptually, drawing equal insight from the context of late eighteenth-century theatre and more unexpected comparisons such as the theories of Brecht and Stanislavsky, and the dramatic basis of Althusser's concept of interpellation. The interpretive results are impressive, especially in combination with Piccitto's own bright constellations of close reading. Her daring yet well founded arguments offer rich food for thought not only for Blakeans but also for those interested in the ongoing redefinition of Romantic drama, as well as larger issues of performance and identity, reader response, and the interactions of image and text." – Tristanne Connolly, University of Waterloo, Canada
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