William Blake in the 1960s: counterculture and radical reception

Walker, Luke (2015) William Blake in the 1960s: counterculture and radical reception. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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The study begins with an account of Blake, as voiced by Allen Ginsberg, taking part in
a key Sixties anti-war protest, and goes on to examine some theoretical aspects of
Blake’s relationship with the Sixties. In Chapter One, I explore the relationship between
‘popular Blake’, ‘academic Blake’, and ‘countercultural Blake’. The chapter seeks to
provide a revisionist account of the relationship between Blake’s Sixties popularity and
his earlier reception, suggesting that all three elements of Blake’s Sixties reception –
popular, academic and countercultural – have long been intertwined, and continue to
interact in the Sixties themselves.
In Chapters Two and Three, I focus in detail on Allen Ginsberg as a central
figure not only in Blake’s countercultural popularization, but also in the creation of
Sixties counterculture itself. The first of these chapters, ‘Visionary Blake, Physical
Blake, Psychedelic Blake’, looks in detail at Ginsberg’s 1948 ‘Blake vision’ and the
way Ginsberg later uses it to construct a Blakean narrative for the Sixties. I examine the
significant differences between the versions of this event presented in Ginsberg’s early
poems and in his later prose and interview accounts, and Ginsberg’s consequent
attempts to develop a general theory of poetry in which the specific effects of Blake’s
poetry on the consciousness are compared to those of psychedelic drugs. Finally, I
suggest that there are analogies between this ‘psychedelic’ approach to Blake and the
interest that Aldous Huxley had in using psychedelics to access Blake’s own visionary
state of consciousness.
Chapter Three, ‘Ginsberg’s Blakean Albion’, analyses a selection of Ginsberg’s
poems, all linked to Blake’s myth of Albion. I use these poems to examine the tensions
present within the three-way relationship between Blake, Ginsberg and British
counterculture. Particular attention is given to Ginsberg’s poem ‘Wales Visitation’
(1967), a work which I suggest is founded on the joint Romantic inheritance of Blake
and Wordsworth, and which demonstrates the ways in which various strands of British
Romanticism interact both within Ginsberg’s poetry and within the broader Sixties
The final chapter of the study examines various aspects of the relationship
between Blake and Bob Dylan, demonstrating the extent of Blake’s influence on Dylan,
but also tackling the surprisingly complicated and problematic question of the route(s)
by which Blake arrives in Dylan’s work.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > English
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR4000 19th century, 1770/1800-1890/1900 > PR4140 Blake, William
P Language and Literature > PS American literature > PS0185 By period > PS0221 20th century > PS0228.A-Z Special topics, A-Z > PS0228.B6 Bohemianism. Beat generation
P Language and Literature > PS American literature > PS0700 Individual authors > PS3500 1900-1960 > PS3513.I74 Ginsburg, Allen
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 08 Mar 2015 10:24
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:49
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/53244

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