Of all British Romantic writers, William Blake has inspired by far the most musical settings of his work, ranging from ‘classically’ composed, as in William Parry’s well-known setting of “And did those feet in ancient time” (“Jerusalem”, 1916), Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Ten Blake Songs (1957), Benjamin Britten’s Songs and Proverbs of William Blake (1965) and John Tavener’s The Lamb (1982), to poet Allen Ginsberg’s musical performances of the Songs of Innocence and Experience(1969) and on to various performances and recordings in jazz, folk and rock/pop idioms.1It is these latter that the proposed paper intends to focus on: While the field of Blake’s musical reception has been broadly charted (cf. for example, Paris 2014, Lussier 2007, Walker 2018, Root 2018, Lobdell 2018, Sanders 2018, Whittaker 2019), the proposed paper will try to contextualise individual musical settings though the concept of genre. Centrally drawing on Mike Goode’s “Blakespotting” (2006) and bringing together his reference to Wai Chee Dimock’s “Theory of Resonance” (1997) with more recent work on new modes of reading and interpretation (esp. Steven Connor’s “Spelling Things Out”, 2014) as well as on how to analyse and interpret media textures in general (my own “Reading Textures”, 2016) and songs in particular (Allan Moore, Song Means: Analysing and Interpreting Recorded Popular Song, 2012), the paper will address the implications of musical genres for reception processes and try to place these in the broader field of Blake reception, from the academically historicised through commodification to the visionary and artistic.
Christoph Reinfandt is Professor of English Literature at the University of Tuebingen. He is the General Editor of ZAA (Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik), an English language quarterly of language, literature and culture. His main areas of research are the history and theory of the novel, Romanticism, contemporary literature and culture (including popular culture), Indian literature in English, and theory. He has written monographs on the meaning of fictional worlds in the English novel from the 18th century to the present (Winter, 1997), on the persistence of Romantic modes of communication in modern culture (Winter, 2003), and on English Romanticism (E. Schmidt, 2008). Recent edited collections include Theory Matters: The Place of Theory in Literary and Cultural Studies Today(with Martin Middeke; Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), The Literary Market in the UK (with Amrei Katharina Nensel; E-publication University of Tuebingen, 2017) and Handbook of the English Novel of the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries (De Gruyter, 2017).