Speak Silence: Rhetoric and Culture in Blake's Poetical Sketches
Mark L. Greenberg
Wayne State University Press, 1996 - Literary Criticism - 221 pages
Published in 1783, Poetical Sketches was William Blake's first volume of poetry, and his only published work to appear in letterpress. This "little book" has been relegated by some critics to the periphery of the Blake canon. Yet the book's uniqueness and authorship have drawn scholars to it, resulting in often illuminating criticism. Speak Silence continues in this line and represents the first and only collection of essays devoted solely to exploring Poetical Sketches. Mark Greenberg's critical introduction traces the historical tendency both to denigrate and to praise the Sketches. The other chapters in this collection, written by distinguished scholars Susan J. Wolfson, Stuart Peterfreund, Thomas A. Vogler, Vincent DeLuca, Nelson Hilton, and Robert F. Gleckner analyze traditional elements of poetry as they appear in the Sketches. This analysis reveals how fully Blake, as a young poet, absorbed these elements and how deftly he manipulated and transvalued them in his early, ambitious, and revolutionary experiments with language, voice, and rhetorical form. This volume also focuses on the Sketches' politics, originality, and complex connections with Blake's poetic precursors and with other cultural institutions. What is most compelling about Speak Silence is the way in which the chapters are in dialogue with one another. The collection resembles a conversation between its notable contributors, inviting readers to witness the developmental process of particular ideas about Blake's early art - and its relation to his later work - as they solidify, are transformed, or dissolve.
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