Blake, Gender and Sexuality in the Twenty-First Century
15-16 July 2010, The Christopher Room, St Aldate's Church, Oxford, UK
Over the many years since Irene Tayler's classic 'The Woman Scaly' opened up feminist debate about Blake's art, generations of critics have wrestled and struggled with, delighted in and savoured, Blake's provocative and abundant sexual visions. Throughout the 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s, trends, tastes and judgements shifted and swirled, from angry critique and searching psychoanalysis, through heavy theory and politicized interpretation, to wary appreciation and queer celebration. Outside academia, too, Blake's reputation as a prophet of free love and naked beauty remained a nuanced yet perennial global presence. And yet, amazingly, there has to date never been a gathering of critics, artists, writers and fans solely devoted to appreciation of and keen debate about these significant aspects of Blake's work.
Blake, Gender and Sexuality in the Twenty-First Century aims to become that gathering, to celebrate and build upon past knowledge as it reaches toward likely concerns of the future. We eagerly invite abstracts for papers which range widely and wildly over sexy Blake, whilst anchoring themselves to at least one of the conference title's key themes: gender, sexuality, and current and future approaches to these fertile issues.
Topics (on a far from exhaustive list) might include:
* how far queer and camp readings of Blake can go; how the engagements of gay writers and artists with his art illuminate this question
* what Blake might have to say about genuine perversity, perversion, obscenity, in a postmodern context where transgression is (supposedly) ubiquitous
* how Blake's often neglected humour might speak to issues of gender and sexuality
* considerations of sexuality and performance: for example, the potential of transvestism to challenge androgyny as a Blakean sexual axiom / ideal
* revisiting classically troublesome scenes, characters, scenarios: perhaps asking what Thel's decision, Oothoon's eroticism, Enitharmon's 'Womans love' or Ololon's sacrifice look like these days, not to mention Orc's passions, Los's creativity, Urizen's brooding or Albion's regeneration
* fresh thought on classic feminist dilemmas: for instance, can and do woman fully possess and inhabit the humanity Blake so cherished? and what precisely is the sexual shape of his variously and copiously rendered 'human form divine'?
* religion and sex: re/considering, or adding to, the recent revelations about Blake's erotico-spiritual contexts; also broader exploration of just how comfortably devotional approaches to Blake's beliefs sit alongside his daring sexualization of the spiritual life and the spiritual realms
* the women in Blake's life: relationships personal and professional; also his friendships with men, especially where brotherhood takes emotional or confrontational forms
* historicist considerations of eighteenth and nineteenth century understandings of sexuality, or of sexual difference, roles or rights; also the thorny of issue of ahistorical expectations, and the interpretive influence of the many things readers would like Blake to have thought, commended, practised
* gender and genre, or questions of material practice: is there, for example, a sexual subtext to some of Blake's aesthetic or technical choices?
Blake, Gender and Sexuality in the Twenty-First Century is an independent, self-sustaining event. We intend to host lively debate in a genial atmosphere, offering delegates two days of intellectual and social pleasures. One way a leisurely pace will be achieved is through brevity and variety, so we will welcome short, pointed papers.
We invite 200-word abstracts for papers which will last a maximum of twenty minutes, to be sent to Helen Bruder and Tristanne Connolly at email@example.com by 15 December 2009 at the latest.
For more information, and to register, please visit the conference website at
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