Dangerous Enthusiasm considers Blake's prophetic books written during the 1790s in the light of the French Revolution controversy raging at the time. His works are shown to be less the expressions of isolated genius than the products of a complex response to the cultural politics of his contemporaries. William Blake's work presents a stern challenge to historical criticism. Jon Mee's well-received study meets the challenge by investigating contexts outside the domains of standard literary histories. He traces the distinctive rhetoric of the illuminated books to the French Revolution controversy of the 1790s and Blake's fusion of the diverse currents of radicalism abroad in that decade. The study is supported by a wealth of original research which will be of interest to historians and literary critics alike. Blake emerges from these pages as a 'bricoleur' who fused the language of London's popular dissenting culture with the more sceptical radicalism of the Enlightenment. Dangerous Enthusiasm presents a more comprehensively politicized picture of Blake than any previous study. "Mee...places Blake well and correctly...Dangerous Enthusiasm will do much to take Blake out of the somewhat attenuated discourse of analytic academicism and to put his back in a credible place.
' 'a general, incontestable conclusion that, whatever their personal relations, Blake's political opinions, expressed in both his writings and his engravings, were much more Paineite than has ever been previously appreciated. Here in these pages Paine grows in stature, with the eager Blake at his side,,, [a] splendid volume...'.
`will do much to take Blake out of the somewhat attenuated discourse of analytic academicism and to put him back in a credible place.' London Review of Books
`splendid volume' Michael Foot
'the book effectively picks out a vibrant and active context for Blake, and perhaps more than any other explains why Blake seems never to have sat down to one of Johnson's celebrated dinners'
Nelson Hilton, University of Georgia, Eighteenth-Century Studies, Volume 2, Issue 1, 1994
'Jon Mee's excellent book focusses on Blake's prophecies of the 1790s and offers a ... sustained and compelling argument. Drawing upon an impressive amount of original research into the pamphlets and books of the period, Mee lucidly demonstrates 'the deep involvement of Blake's rhetorical resources, both visual and verbal, in the Revolution controversy'. Mee's book has something to offer all students of the late eighteenth century and not just Blake
Philip Cox, Sheffield Hallam University, British Journal for Eighteenth Century Studies, Vol. 17, Part 1, Spring 1994
'Blake's rhetorical strategies were self-defeatingly dense. Mee's scholarship brilliantly recuperates these densities ... an excellent, informative study of use to any one interested in the period.'
Robert Miles, Sheffield Hallam University, Notes and Queries, Volume 41, No. 1, March 1994
'here is an account of Blake which in post-structuralist fashion pays attention to the framework of discourses.'
William Stafford, History Workshop Journal, Vol. 37, Spring '94
'To apply appropriate critical strategies to an author's work without neglecting or distorting the historical conditions behind the writing is an ideal of modern scholarship, rarely attained. Jon Mee in his study of Blake demonstrates how a judicious choice of methodology can open up a text fraught with inconsistencies, while at the same time reflecting general ideological patterns in the period of composition.'
`Mee's study is one of the most successful we have to date. He elegantly places Blake's poetry and designs within late eighteenth-century radical culture, but eschews any attempt to fix Blake's art to precise historical moments.'
Literature and History