In three prior works, I have explored the presence of Blake in popular works of theoretical physics, whether as ‘illustrator’ of the future of physics (in the case of the frontispiece to Europe, A Prophecy or the painting Newton) or a poet capable of offering visionary language appropriate for the new physics of relativity and quantum (in the case of the vortex in Milton or the wormholes at work in the gates of Jerusalem).1 The ‘Blakespotting’ pursued in those prior projects primarily located the evocation of “Blake” and analyzed the ‘use’ made of him and his works by writers striving to describe physical events after the emergence of relativity effects, quantum dynamics, and protocols of chaos. Such allusions render Blake a “strange attractor” (Hawkins 7), and given the continued—and ever expanding—citational presence of Blake by those who elaborate current understanding of the “entanglements” (Barad 247) that defines inner and outer “events” (Badiou 137), my paper undertakes a renewed exploration of precisely how and why a quirky, perhaps crazy, and certainly heretical Christian painter and poet at the end of the eighteenth century could offer a visionary physics conversant with the most exotic conceptions in contemporary physical theory.
1. In chronological order: “Blake's Vortex: The Quantum Tunnel in Milton,” Nineteenth-Century Contexts 18.3 (Fall 1994), 263-91; Romantic Dynamics: The Poetics of Physicality. New York & London: St. Martins & Macmillan (2000), and “Blake and Science Studies,” Palgrave Advances: William Blake Studies, Nicholas Williams, ed. London: Palgrave (2006), 186-213.
Badiou, Alain. Infinite Thought: Truth and the Return to Philosophy. London & New York: Continuum, 2005.
Barad, Karen. Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham & London: Duke UP, 2007.
Hawkins, Harriet. Strange Attractors: Literature, Culture and Chaos Theory. New York et al.: Prentice Hall, 1995.
Mark Lussier is Emeritus Professor of English and Sustainability at Arizona State University. His monographs include Romantic Dynamics: The Poetics of Physicality (1999) and Romantic Dharma: The Emergence of Buddhism into Nineteenth Century Europe (2011). He has edited or co-edited Reading Blake/Blake Reading (1986), Feminist Literary Theory and Politics (1986), Perspective as a Problem in the Art, History and Literature of Early Modern Europe (1994), Romanticism and Buddhism (2006), and Engaged Romanticism: Romanticism as Praxis (2008). His forthcoming works include the co-authored The Encyclopedia of Romantic Writers and Writing (2021), Blake’s Affective Textualities: Rhythmic Dynamics in the Illuminated Books (2022), and the co-edited The Rise of Rhythm Studies (2022).