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    Rending the “Soft Plains” of America: Rape and Liberation in the Poetry of William Blake

    Cogan, Lucy (2021) Rending the “Soft Plains” of America: Rape and Liberation in the Poetry of William Blake. European Romantic Review, 32 (4). pp. 377-397. ISSN 1050-9585

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    William Blake is often popularly recalled as a proponent of “free love” who equated unrestrained desire with the push for universal liberty, yet much of the sex that appears in his work is non-consensual and violent, the product of a masculine urge for sexual self-actualization. This apparent contradiction has confounded critics for decades, particularly since feminist theory transformed the discourse on rape in the mid-twentieth century. As this article will argue, however, the representations of sexual assault in Blake’s work are neither an endorsement nor an evasion of the gendered dynamics of forced sex, but are instead evidence of his efforts to work through his own uncertainty regarding what limits, if any, the drive for personal liberty should observe. In his interrogation of this question, Blake takes an approach that is analogous to the methodology of hermeneutics, repeatedly revisiting instances in his mythopoeia in which liberty and sexual assault collide in order to confront the contradictions inherent in his conception of emancipation. Working through these versions, Blake uncovers the imperialist, colonialist logic that underpins any quest for individual liberation that refuses to acknowledge its victims.

    Item Type: Article
    Keywords: Soft Plains; America; Rape and Liberation; Poetry; William Blake;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Arts & Humanities > School of English, Media & Theatre Studies > English
    Item ID: 15850
    Identification Number:
    Depositing User: Lucy Cogan
    Date Deposited: 22 Apr 2022 10:20
    Journal or Publication Title: European Romantic Review
    Publisher: Taylor & Francis
    Refereed: Yes
    Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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