Join us for a live event as part of our Global Blake: In Conversation series. Franca Bellarsi will discuss the emerging sphere of ecocriticism and the Beats, via the work of Allen Ginsberg and William Blake
'Blake's Influence on Allen Ginsberg's Environmental Consciousness'
Ecocritical readings of the Beats are barely beginning to blossom, and the work of Allen Ginsberg remains still much less discussed from an environmental perspective than that of some of his fellow Beat writers. Though this is never explicitly acknowledged, one of the fundamental reasons for this is that Ginsberg developed a fully conscious ecological awareness later than Beat authors like Gary Snyder or Michael McClure. Moreover, when attentively examined, Ginsberg’s environmental stance remains more ambiguous than than theirs, his dark ecological and social ecological leanings resisting homogenisation with the Deep Ecology that pervades other Beat voices.
Moreover, the influence that Blake’s complex approach to non-human material creation had on Ginsberg’s own is never discussed, in spite of the life-changing epiphany that Ginsberg underwent in 1948 whilst reading The Songs of Innocence and of Experience. It is as if this transformative moment of ecstasy and hallucination had affected every other aspect of Ginsberg’s existence and countercultural consciousness—from his spirituality and politics to his mission as a poet and teacher—but his environmental consciousness and engagement with the non-human “other.”
Not only only does this not tally with the fact that the Beat poet embraced Blake as his life-long “guru,” but it cannot be reconciled either with what a scrutiny of Ginsberg’ poetry reveals. Indeed, the many fertile tensions characterising Blake’s engagement with material creation also pervade Ginsberg’s own heterogeneous one, which ranges from dark Ecology to environmental elegy and prophecy. When it comes to that elusive entity called “nature,” Blake was Ginsberg’s teacher too, as my talk will suggest.
Franca Bellarsi (Université libre de Bruxelles, ULB)
Since completing her PhD on ‘Allen Ginsberg as a poet of the “Buddhist Void”’, Franca BELLARSI (Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium) has been equally dividing her research between the Beat Generation, ecocriticism and ecopoetics, and English Romanticism. Her latest article on Blake, ‘A Cosmopolitan Case Study: Countercultural Blake in the Therapoetic Practice of maelstrÖm reEvolution’ has just been published (Bulletin of the John Rylands Library).
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