The Poetry Foundation has published a review of Richard Holmes' The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and the Terror of Science, an exploration of the Romantic sensibility in science. Authored by Molly Young, the article characterizes Holmes' book as "equal parts passionate history and head-shaking elegy—a recovery of a golden era and a subsequent burial of it." Starting with Captain Cook's voyage to Tahiti in 1768 and ending with Charles Babbage's publication of Reflections on the Decline of Science in England in 1830, the book catalogues a number of Romantic explorer's and scientists--from Humphry Davy to William and Caroline Herschel. The argument throughout, according to Young, is that Romantic poetry and science have two key attributes in common: a frenzy for discovery and a lack of specialization. It should come as no surprise, then, that "the Romantic imagination was inspired, not alienated, by scientific advances."
In addition, Andrew Stauffer of The Hoarding has collected several other reviews of The Age of Wonder.
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Reviews editor Jasper Cragwall has just posted reviews of two new books on the Romantic Circles Reviews Blog. One, a review of The Cambridge Companion to William Blake (ed. Morris Eaves), was written by R. Paul Yoder. The other, authored by Matthew VanWinkle, is a review of Adam Potkay's The Story of Joy: From the Bible to Late Romanticism. Please visit the top of the RC Reviews Blog to read both new reviews.
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The trailer has come available for Jane Campion's Bright Star, a new film about the romance between John Keats and Fanny Brawne.
Watch the trailer here.
The film is currently scheduled for theatrical release in the US on September 18th and the UK on November 6th, but there is some talk it may be pushed back in the US for better Academy Award timing. The film had been on critics' short lists for a Palme d'Or at the Cannes film festival in May, but it came up empty handed.
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The William Blake Archive is pleased to announce the publication of electronic editions of The Song of Los copies C and E, from the Morgan Library and Museum and the Huntington Library and Art Gallery respectively. They join copies A and D from the British Museum and copy B from the Library of Congress, giving the Archive five of the six extant copies of this illuminated book.
The eight plates of The Song of Los were produced in 1795; all extant copies (A-F) were color printed in that year in a single pressrun. Divided into sections entitled "Africa" and "Asia," The Song of Los is the last of Blake's "Continental Prophecies" (see also America  and Europe , exemplary printings of which are in the Archive). Blake abandons direct references to contemporary events to pursue the junctures among biblical narrative, the origins of law and religion, and his own developing mythology. Adam, Noah, Socrates, Brama, Los, Urizen, and several others represent both historical periods and states of consciousness. The loose narrative structure reaches towards a vision of universal history ending with apocalyptic resurrection.
Plates 1, 2, 5, and 8 (frontispiece, title page, and full-page designs) are color printed drawings, executed on millboards and printed in the planographic manner of--and probably concurrent with--the twelve Large Color Printed Drawings of 1795, which are also in the Archive. Plates 3 and 4, which make up "Africa," and plates 6 and 7, which make up "Asia," were executed first, side by side on two oblong pieces of copper (plates 3/4, 6/7). Initially designed with double columns in landscape format, the texts of the poems were transformed into vertical pages by printing the oblong plates with one side masked. In copies C and E, plates 5 and 8 are differently arranged: 8 follows plate 1 and 5 is placed at the end in copy C; 8 follows plate 3 and 5 follows plate 6 in copy E.
Like all the illuminated books in the Archive, the text and images of The Song of Los copies C and E are fully searchable and are supported by our Inote and ImageSizer applications. With the Archive's Compare feature, users can easily juxtapose multiple impressions of any plate across the different copies of this or any of the other illuminated books. New protocols for transcription, which produce improved accuracy and fuller documentation in editors' notes, have been applied to all copies of The Song of Los in the Archive.
With the publication of these copies of The Song of Los, the Archive now contains fully searchable and scalable electronic editions of seventy copies of Blake's nineteen illuminated books in the context of full bibliographic information about each work, careful diplomatic transcriptions of all texts, detailed descriptions of all images, and extensive bibliographies. In addition to illuminated books, the Archive contains many important manuscripts and series of engravings, sketches, and water color drawings, including Blake's illustrations to Thomas Gray's Poems, water color and engraved illustrations to Dante's Divine Comedy, the large color printed drawings of 1795 and c. 1805, the Linnell and Butts sets of the Book of Job water colors and the sketchbook containing drawings for the engraved illustrations to the Book of Job, the water color illustrations to Robert Blair's The Grave, and all nine of Blake's water color series illustrating the poetry of John Milton.
As always, the William Blake Archive is a free site, imposing no access restrictions and charging no subscription fees. The site is made possible by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the continuing support of the Library of Congress, and the cooperation of the international array of libraries and museums that have generously given us permission to reproduce works from their collections in the Archive.
Morris Eaves, Robert N. Essick, and Joseph Viscomi, editors Ashley Reed, project manager, William Shaw, technical editor The William Blake Archive
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Thanks to the Blake Archive blog for hipping us to this new independent film out of the UK. According to the film's press release, it "uses the context of lap-dancing to show that sin is more than simply an issue of right wrong—good and evil—and is a necessary part of human existence."
The trailer is available on YouTube:
And here's some more from the press release:
(Some indication of the filmmakers' reading of _The Marriage_ can be found in paragraph three).
FLASHGUN FILMS, announce the release of Blake’s Striptease, which represents an artistic interpretation of William Blake’s poem: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-1793). Arguably Blake’s most influential work, the poem has fascinated academics and theologians alike. Set within contemporary society the film uses the context of lap-dancing to show that sin is more than simply an issue of right wrong—good and evil—and is a necessary part of human existence. The film has been submitted to film festivals internationally for screening in the fall.
Set to music by the pianist Erik Satie, the film features a voice-over by Sue Hansen-Styles (used in the Hitman Trilogy) reading a selection of lines from the poem. In line with the poem, the film depicts mans birth into the world as John Symes, lead actor, lies underwater in his bath preparing for his stag night. As the story unfolds John is met by an angel who warns him about his propinquity to sin. John soon meets with his two friends (the peacock and the goat) in a public house where they become intoxicated. During his journey John is revisited by the angel and warned again – but he ignores this advice and the men end up in a lap dancing club guarded by doormen (who play the lions). Here the men observe a striptease where upon the lustful goat attempts to accost the lap-dancer and is ejected by the doormen. Meanwhile John slips away to the VIP room where two tyger lap-dancers lie in wait and he commits the mortal sin of lust – an act that proves to be his undoing. The film concludes with John undergoing a terrifying physical transformation and a quote summarising Blake’s work.
The film is newsworthy as local authorities across the UK try to veto lap-dancing clubs using new legislation passed by Parliament. Moreover, in Italy Anna Nobili, the former Italian lap-dancer from Milan, recently quit after twenty years in the industry to become a nun. According to The Times newspaper, she now performs a “Holy Dance” and now refers to herself as the “ballerina for God” (see e.g., www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article6031754.ece). This contradicts the work of Blake who argues that both "The nakedness of woman is the work of God" and "The lust of the goat is the bounty of God".
Flashgun Films are an innovative association of indie film-makers and actors that specialise in music videos, commercials and short films. Thier previous entry to Portobello Film Festival—King Lear of the Taxi—was short-listed for “Best Director” and featured a voice-over from poet, actor and NYC Cab Driver Davidson Garrett. Portobello now stands as the biggest film festival in Europe.
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Two new online Romanticism resources have been published recently, both from the University of Toronto. One, the Jackson Bibliography of Romantic Poetry, is edited by Robin Jackson, University Professor Emeritus in the English Department at the aims to provide descriptions of all the volumes of verse in English that were published from 1770 to 1835. Currently available online is Phase I of the project, which covers the years 1798-1835. Stage II will cover the remaining years, 1770-1797. In stage I alone, 17,160 entries are accessible through a searchable database that allows queries for keyword, author, title, date, and publisher, among others.
The other resource, edited by Lindsey Eckert, a Ph.D. student in English and the Nineteenth-Century British Literary Annuals: An Online Exhibition of Materials from the University of Toronto. The exhibition brings together volumes from the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, the McLean Collection in the Robertson Davies Library at Massey College, and the Special Collections in the E.J. Pratt Library at Victoria University. Thematically organized virtual cases display books from diverse and dispersed collections and libraries. Viewed in sequential order, the cases tell a loose narrative of the development of the genre from 1823-1839.
Britain and Greece have marked their roughly two hundred-year stalemate surrounding the ownership of the Elgin Marbles with a new salvo. The occassion: the June 20 opening of the new $200 million, 260,000 square foot Acropolis Museum in Athens. The museum's opening can be seen as a rebuttal to claims by the British Museum, which holds more than half of the frieze's total length, that Greece did not have a sufficient space to keep them. Indeed, Claire Soares of The Independent sees this massive undertaking as a very deliberate demonstration of Greece's ability to keep the frieze safe: "Unlike any other museum in the world, it was designed to house something it didn't own."
The gaps in the Greek collection are completed with plaster casts of the originals, made to look by some reports conspicuous in their artificiality. As Sean Newsom of The Times of London argued recently , "We can argue all we like about how we saved the sculpture from years of turmoil in Greece, but with this room finally completed, it’s obvious where they now belong."
Though no permanent loan requests or bequeathals seem to be in the offing, Greek officials have taken on a triumphal tone. The inevitable, it seems, has finally come, according to Greek Culture Minister Antonio Samaras: "For 200 years, the Parthenon Marbles have been amputated, now they must be reunited. The Parthenon frieze speaks through its totality; this voice should be heard not be silenced,"
Numerous other commentators have chimed in on Greece's behalf--among them Christopher Hitchens and Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times. Compare these with responses from the Romantic period by Lord Byron, Felicia Hemans, Percy Shelley, and John Keats, among others. The striking thing, even with the opening of the new museum, is how little the debate has changed.
The Romantic period is proving to be fertile ground for one of this year's chicest fictional genres: monster lit. The newest offering, Laurie Scheck's A Monster's Notes, attempts to take the genre to a new level, jettisoning zombies for a love story between a Frankenstein's monster and an eight-year-old Mary Shelley. According to its publisher's description and word around the Web, the novel promises to offer a metacommentary upon both the original novel it draws from and the burgeoning genre that has given rise to hideous progeny like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (see previous post). One NPR commentator described A Monster's Notes as a novel "for people who care about the Pride and Prejudice side of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies."
Taking Frankenstein as its Ur-text, the novel asks a serious of tantalizing "what ifs":
What if Mary Shelley had not invented Frankenstein’s monster but had met him when she was a girl of eight, sitting by her mother’s grave, and he came to her unbidden? What if their secret bond left her forever changed, obsessed with the strange being whom she had discovered at a time of need? What if he were still alive in the twenty-first century?
It appears the novel shares some affinities with Shelley Jackson's classic hypertext Patchwork Girl, both of which imagine face-to-face meetings between the creature and Mary Shelley and which project the creature into a postmodern world. Described by the publisher as a "genre bending book," a monster's tale purports to blend historical fiction, science fiction, romance, and monster lit into "a meditation on creativity and technology, on alienation and otherness, on ugliness and beauty, and on our need to be understood." Certainly, like Jackson's hypertext, hybridity promises to be a key theme.
A Monster's Notes hits bookshelves June 23.
See also our previous post on John Kessel’s “Pride and Prometheus,” a nominee for the best novelette category at this year's Hugo Awards (science fiction). It chronicles a meeting between Pride and Prejudice's bookish Mary Bennet and Frankenstein’s namesake.