Saree Makdisi on looking to Blake in moments of crisis and transformation [Audio]

UCLA Professor of English and Comparative Literature Saree Makdisi  joined the block Museum to discuss the historical parallels between Blake’s era and the 1960’s, examining how these concurrent histories are the result of profound changes in politics, economy, art, and society during their respective periods.

From the lecture:

The [Block Museum] exhibition is one of the great events in the appreciation of Blake in America. The exhibition makes clearer than ever, something that a lot of us had a sense of, that even though Blake died in obscurity in the 1820s he went on to influence the 1960s in prodigious ways.  In fact the range of influence is all the more impressive given that these writers and artists were engaging with Blake… through paperback compendiums. Even at that they took Blake and they ran with him and they went in new directions.  Blake clearly offered something that those later artists and writers were craving, a way of thinking and creatively responding to a moment of crisis and transformation in the 1960s. In dealing with their social, cultural, and political situation these artists and writers found inspiration to Blake’s response to his own situation centuries earlier.  Its in this sense that Blake can be seen as a kind of precursor to the later writers and to a rebellious individualism.


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About Saree Makdisi:

Saree Makdisi received his BA in English and Economics from Wesleyan University in 1987 and his PhD from the Literature Program at Duke University in 1993.

Professor Makdisi’s teaching and research are situated at the crossroads of several different fields, including British Romanticism, imperial culture, colonial and postcolonial theory and criticism, and the cultures of urban modernity, particularly the revision and contestation of charged urban spaces, including London, Beirut and Jerusalem. He has also written extensively on the afterlives of colonialism in the contemporary Arab world, and, in addition to his scholarly articles, has also contributed pieces on current events to a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, and the London Review of Books.

His most recent book is Reading William Blake (Cambridge University Press, 2015). He is also the author of Making England Western: Occidentalism, Race, and Imperial Culture (University of Chicago Press, 2014); Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation (Norton, 2010); William Blake and the Impossible History of the 1790s (University of Chicago Press, 2003); and Romantic Imperialism (Cambridge University Press, 1998). He is presently working on two new books: London’s Modernities (on the mapping and unmapping of London from the nineteenth century to the present), and Palestine and the Psychogeography of Denial (on the ways in which the affirmation and landscaping of certain values—tolerance, democracy, eco-consciousness—have played key roles in denying the Palestinian presence in and claim to Palestine).

Co presented by Northwestern University Department of Art History

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