English 274H: William Blake and Enlightenment Media

Instructor: XXXX Office Hours: M W 2:30 – 3:30 pm;
M W 11:10 – 12:25 pm (by appointment)
Calhoun Hall 320 Office:
Section 01 Office Phone #:
Fall 2013 Mailbox: (3rd Floor of Benson Hall)


William Blake (1757-1827) has been variously described as a visionary, mystic, rebel, iconoclast, and even, as the nineteenth-century critic Robert Hunt did, “an unfortunate lunatic.” This multi-media artist is unique in the way he synthesizes verbal and visual art forms; his “illuminated” books, a composite genre he created, raise key questions about the way that the most pressing issues of Blake’s lifetime were recreated, communicated, and imagined in art. This honors seminar serves two purposes: to study Blake’s poetry and prose as he produced it, complete with illustrations (including those found in the website The William Blake Archive), and to historicize Blake’s works and life. We will focus on his turbulent era, between 1780 and 1830, a period that witnessed the upheavals of the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, radical reform movements, the expansion of Britain’s overseas empire, and the rise of prophets and mystics as “insane” as Blake himself. Discussions about his printmaking process, the juxtaposition of image and word, and his bizarre mythical philosophies will help us explore the intersections among literature, visual art, print technologies, and politics.

This advanced honors seminar is designed to give you a firm training in interdisciplinary research methods and in effectively using multi-media and blogs to communicate online with a “real” public audience. Toward that end, you are expected to think, write, create, and imagine as wildly as Blake did. Attendance and participation, in and out of class, are not just mandatory but essential to your success.


William Blake, Blake’s Poetry and Designs. 2nd edition. Eds. Mary Lynn Johnson and John E. Grant. New York: W.W. Norton, 2008.

S. Foster Damon. A Blake Dictionary: The Ideas and Symbols of William Blake. Rev. Ed. Morris Eaves. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1988.

William Blake Archive, Eds. Morris Eaves, Robert N. Essick, and Joseph Viscomi. http://www.blakearchive.org.

Course blog: https://williamblakeandenlightenmentmedia.wordpress.com

Grade Percentage:
Weekly blog posts 25%
First paper 15%
Final Research paper 35%
Abstract and Annotated Bibliography 10%
Multi-media research presentation 15%

Weekly Blog Posts:

You are expected to post one blog entry weekly on our course site based on that week’s assigned reading. I will create a topic and prompts for each week. I encourage you to respond to your peer’s posts, a provocative Blake image or poetry line, or to a current event that is Blake-related. Posts are meant to be informal writing assignments that help generate engaging thoughts (or questions) about anything and everything that occurs to you while reading. They serve as the basis of our class discussions (I will occasionally call on you to share some of your thoughts on it). The posts should be a short paragraph (300 words), but must be written sincerely and thoughtfully. Keep in mind that these blogs might be read by thousands of viewers online, not just by me or your peers, so expect strangers to comment on your ideas. Although they should be written informally, they should be well-written and spell-checked, with no grammatical/punctuation errors. Please consult the grading criterion for blog posts on page 7. Students are required to create tags (as many as you want) for each blog post they submit; untagged blog posts will not receive a grade. The last time you can post on any given week is by 10:00am the day it is due (usually on a Wednesday).

Peer evaluation: Each week an assigned student pair will be responsible for commenting on blog posts. Although this exercise will not be graded, students must participate. Student comments should evaluate the blog by answering the following question: What is the most original idea raised in this post and how can it be improved? Student pairs should have read the blog before class, for I will call upon them to discuss their favorite post(s). By the second or third week of class, I will distribute a sign-up sheet.

Research Paper:

The term paper project involves two phases: (1) You will write a 5-6 page essay on one of the many broad topics that I will distribute ahead of time in class. (2) Based on my feedback, you will revise and expand the first essay into an 11-12 page research paper. Both phases of the project involve critical analysis of a particular theme or idea that appears in Blake’s works (including those not covered in our assigned course readings). For the second phase, you will need to use at least one primary text in addition to Blake’s works (such as a letter, journal entry, review, etc.) and at least three works of modern literary criticism. Original and provocative interpretations based on close readings are absolutely crucial for determining your success. [more information on the research paper will be distributed later in the semester.]
Abstracts and Annotated Bibliography:

You will produce a brief 300 words or less abstract that designates the topic you have chosen to focus on, the texts you will discuss and why, and the working argument of your essay. Along with the abstract, you will submit an annotated bibliography that lists at least five sources (one primary, four secondary) that you plan to use; each entry (not to exceed 200 words) will explain why that source will be important for your research paper. This assignment will NOT appear in the course blog. [more specific instructions will be included in the research paper assignment sheet later in the semester.]

Multi-Media Research Presentation:

During the last two weeks of the semester, students will give 10-15 minute presentations on their research project. Although this will be a formal presentation, the format remains open: students can read papers, use relevant images, blog sites, YouTube videos, PowerPoint, or whatever media (or combination thereof) you choose. I will grade this assignment on the bases of your oral presentation mastery, imaginative originality, and effective use of multi-media. [Specific instructions and grading criterion will be provided later in the semester.]


I will ask you to sign an attendance sheet in each class session. Attendance and participation are essential in successfully completing this course and in attaining a decent grade. Moreover, this class really depends on intellectual classroom discussions and on your in-put into how this course could be shaped to your issues and concerns. Hence, not showing up to class and participating will certainly offset your grades on writing assignments, research, and projects. The same goes for excessive tardiness. Warning: More than two unexcused absences will be reflected in your mid-semester reports and will result in reducing your final course grade by half a letter grade!

Excusing Absences:
I may be willing to excuse no more than two absences only in case of serious illness, family emergencies, or religious holidays/events, all of which require actual certified documentation or proof. If you are going to miss class, please e-mail me before class begins. It is your responsibility to make up missed work or know about any up-coming assignments.


Due dates are announced in advance, and I will be sure to give plenty of reminders. All work must be turned in on the due date. For the papers, half a letter grade will be lost for each day it goes over the due date. Late or missed blog posts will not be accepted.


A word of caution: copying the work of another author and passing it off as your own is plagiarism. Papers that you or anyone else has written for another course is also considered plagiarism. If legitimate plagiarism charges are brought against you, you may fail the course. Please keep in mind that ignorance of the Vanderbilt Honor Code will not serve as an excuse for breaking it and is not a defense against plagiarism charges. Please consult the Undergraduate Honor Council’s page on academic integrity for more information: http://studentorgs.vanderbilt.edu/HonorCouncil. If you are unsure about citing or using source references, please consult with me.

You must cite your sources in all written work (including blog posts), either using parenthetical citations in the text or with footnotes. I prefer MLA style citation, which you can view at http://www.wisc.edu/writing/Handbook/DocMLA.html. All your papers must also include a list of works cited, even if the only source you use is the primary text. You must also cite comments made by your peers on the course blog and any outside sources you consult, paraphrase, or quote in your essay.


If you require any disability-related accommodations, please contact me by e-mail, phone, in my office, or after class. If there are any issues, problems, or anxieties, either with the course itself or something outside the course, please feel free to talk with me. Even if I am unable to help you, I can certainly send you to someone who can.


Aside from the more specific grading criterion provided in the assignment handout, I have a more general criterion for determining letter grades. As I read your essays, I am looking at five broad areas:

1. Thesis
2. Argument
3. Paragraphs (including introductory and closing paragraph)
4. Style (especially Academic Tone)
5. Mechanics (spelling, punctuation, proofreading)

[NOTE: This general grading criterion is only meant to complement the more specific grading standards of the written assignment, and not as a replacement or substitute.]

“A” Range: [A+; A; A-]
An essay in this range will have a strong, clear thesis that demonstrates that the writer has done some thinking on her or his own about the literary text. Evidence (from primary and secondary sources) will be well chosen and lucidly and persuasively presented. The title and introductory paragraph will engage the reader’s interest; the conclusion will provide a sense of closure. Transition/topic sentences in each paragraph will signal the progress of the argument and transitions within paragraphs will flow easily. The essay will be technically well written, with few or no typographical errors and few or no problems of diction and punctuation. An “A” or “A+” is reserved only for papers exemplifying depth and originality in argumentation and close reading; a focused thesis that strikes the reader as unexpected or even slightly odd. It will move well beyond the essay prompt to explore the argument’s implications, and will leave the reader asking new and provocative questions about the literary text. “A-” papers meet most of the A-level conditions but have a slight problem in one of the five areas.

“B” Range: [B+; B; B-]
An essay in this range may be less strong in one or more of the five areas, or will be generally competent, but not particularly interesting; this may be the case when the writer hasn’t engaged seriously with the literary text. It may be that the essay is reasonably well written, but seriously misinterprets or misuses a piece of evidence in a way that damages its own case undermining the author’s credibility and control. The essay may present fine ideas, but express them so awkwardly that the reader must expend considerable effort simply to follow the argument. “B+” is reserved for a paper that has A-level ambitions but does not achieve them; “B” papers represent commendable work with no major failings, making a clear point without any originality that pushes significant boundaries; a “B-” represents commendable work as well, but with minor problems in one or more of the five areas.

“C” Range: [C+; C; C-]
An essay in this range has a serious problem in one or more of the five areas. An essay without a clear thesis, for example, or one that is simply a summary of the literary text, will not receive a B- grade. The same applies to essays which reproduce long passages from a literary text, but doesn’t analyze them as evidence for its argument. A “C+” paper has latent good ideas, but needs to foreground those ideas to the center of the paper; a “C” or “C-” paper lacks a strong governing argument, leaving the reader with the lingering “so what?” question.

“D” and “F” Range: [D+; D; D-; F]
An essay in this range has either completely failed to meet all the five broad areas and/or has seriously misunderstood the instructions or purpose to the written assignment. An essay in this range is not considered academic, college level work. A “D” or “D+” paper lacks a thesis and has very few or no good ideas at all, misusing or failing to use textual evidence. It is often full of grammatical, stylistic, and formal problems.

Blog Post Grading Rubric:

Blog posts are evaluated on a letter grade basis. Below is an explanation of what is expected from a post and the letter grade ranges, based on the following four criteria:

1. Conceptual sophistication
2. Dialogue with readings/other blog posts/current events
3. Artistry of writing
4. Use of medium

“A+ to A-” Range:
These grades are reserved for an assignment that is well-written and concise (with few or no technical errors), establishes specific points, offers a working interpretation, and is not afraid to use creative mediums for self-expression. The main criterion here is originality, defined as a clever idea or question that is surprising, unexpected, and not frequently discussed in class. It involves providing a risky answer that tries to move beyond that which is apparent or obvious. The assignment that is awarded this grade will have no problem identifying and explaining key passages in literary texts.

“B to B+” Range:
This grade is awarded to an assignment that has met most of the conditions mentioned above, but is not particularly well-written or concise and offers a vague interpretation that is not well supported by textual evidence. A blog post that receives a letter grade in this range has done an adequate job of completing the assignment, but has not really offered an original interpretation. Instead, it has provided an obvious or expected viewpoint in an attempt to avoid any risky moves. It will leave the reader with lingering questions about extremely important issues or ideas that were skipped over or given insufficient attention. Overall, this grade will only be awarded to posts that have made a serious and sincere attempt to offer an interpretation, but have avoided any form of daring creativity. In short, a grade in this range means that you have done your job well but still need to improve your interpretation.

“C+ to C” Range:
These grades are awarded only to assignments that seriously misunderstand the post category or question, avoid offering any defined stance, and/or are poorly written. Students seeking shelter in broad generalizations and redundant summaries, without attempting to offer a working interpretation or supporting textual evidence, will be awarded a grade in this range. In short, a “C” or “C-”means that you have not really attempted to do a close reading of a literary text or, if you have tried to do so, that you did not bother to identify, explain, or articulate important ideas. Moreover, those students who do not treat their posts seriously and sincerely will be awarded a grade below a “C-.” By this I mean students who treat their blog posts as “busy” work and make little or no attempt to engage a particular text, question, or idea.


Week 1 (8/21): Introductions

W: Course Policies and Introduction. Blake, “And did those feet in ancient time” (147-
148) (handout)

Week 2 (8/26, 8/28): Blake’s Philosophy of Art

M: Blake, “All Religions are One,” “There is no natural religion” (5-7).

Jonathan Roberts, William Blake’s Poetry, chapter 1, 1-10 (OAK e-reserves)

W: Sir Joshua Reynolds, excerpt from his Works (handout); Blake, “From On Reynold’s
Works” (461-465); “[YAH] & His Two Sons Satan & Adam [The Laocoon] (346-
352); see “The Laocoon” Image in The William Blake Archive

Jonathan Roberts, William Blake’s Poetry, chapter 4, 75-85
(OAK e-reserves)

Week 3 (9/2, 9/4): Songs of Innocence and Experience (1789-94)

M & W: Blake, “Songs of Innocence” (8-27); Blake, “Motto to the Songs of Innocence
& of Experience” (383)

Week 4 (9/9, 9/11): Songs of Innocence and Experience (1789-94)

M & W: Blake, “Songs of Experience” (28-47); Blake, “London (drafts c. 1792)” (379)
and “The Tyger (drafts c. 1792)” (380); “Infant Sorrow” (drafts, of uncertain
date) (381-382)

Week 5 (9/16, 9/18): The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790)

M & W: Blake, “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” (66-82)

Emanuel Swedenburg, from Heaven and its wonders, the world of spirits, and hell; from things heard and seen. 3rd Edition (London, 1789) (handout)

Week 6 (9/23, 9/25): The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790)

M & W: Continue w/ Blake, “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” (66-82)

Blake, Annotations to Swedenborg’s Heaven and Hell (601-602) and to
Swedenborg’s Divine Love and Divine Wisdom (602-609) (OAK e-reserves)

Week 7 (9/30, 10/2): The French Revolution

M: Edmund Burke, excerpts from Reflections on the Revolution in France; Thomas
Paine, from The Rights of Man; Richard Brothers, from A Revealed knowledge, of the
prophecies & times (1794) (OAK e-reserves)

W: Paine, The Age of Reason (1794); Blake, “Annotations to Watson’s Apology for the
Bible” (1798); Jonathan Roberts, William Blake’s Poetry, chapter 1, 10-22 (OAK e-

Week 8 (10/7, 10/9): The French Revolution, Women, and Slavery

M: Blake, “Visions of the Daughters of Albion” (55-65); Mary Wollstonecraft, excerpt of Vindication of the Rights of Woman (OAK e-reserves)

W: finish w/ Blake, “Visions of the Daughters of Albion” (55-65)

First Essay due in class

Week 9 (10/14, 10/16): The Blakean Revolution

M & W: Blake, “Europe A Prophecy” (96-106)

Week 10 (10/21, 10/23): The Blakean Revolution

M: finish w/ “Europe A Prophecy” (96-106)

W: Blake, “The Song of Los” (107-112)

Week 11 (10/28, 10/30): Blakean Revolution

M: finish w/ “The Song of Los” (107-112)

W: Central Library visit

Weeks 12 (11/4, 11/6): Blake’s Grand Epic

M & W: Blake, Milton: A Poem, “Preface” and “Book the First” (144-186)

Week 13 (11/11, 11/13): Blake’s Grand Epic

M & W: Blake, Milton: A Poem, “Book the Second” (187-204)

Week 14 (11/18, 11/20): Research and Writing Workshop

M: finish w/ Milton

Abstract and Annotated Bibliography Due

W: Writing workshop/sample student paper

Week 15 (11/25, 11/27): Thanksgiving Break

No classes!!!!!

Week 16 (12/2, 12/4): Presentation Projects

Research Paper due on OAK’s Discussion Board by Monday, 12/9 at noon.