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Blake Quarterly

Blake Quarterly

The Fortunate “Un-“fortunate in BIQ Wordlists

While still working through the S-Z wordlist of potential misspellings in Blake/An Illustrated Quarterly, I have found myself amidst a list of “Un-” vocabulary. Almost exactly a year ago, I reflected on the isolation of “self” and its implications as I remediated words that required a hyphen, separating “self” from terms like “alienation,” “complicating,” “defeating,” and “deluding” by adding a hyphen that the OCR had mistakenly removed. And now that I’ve reached the end of my list, I reflect again on what this work teaches me about William Blake scholarship, and about language more generally.

My “Un-” meanderings have unfortunately called a particular fiction to mind: George Orwell’s 1984. The dystopia has received popular attention following the recent presidential election, especially with the introduction of terms like “alternative facts” and “fake news” to contemporary political discourse. The New York Times has touted 1984 as the must-read novel of 2017, especially after it sold out on Amazon in late January. So perhaps it is not surprising that the “Un-” words in Blake/An Illustrated Quarterly seemed to echo some of “The Principles of Newspeak” designed to reform the vocabulary of the people of Orwell’s Oceania:

“In addition, any word — this again applied in principle to every word in the language —    could be negatived by adding the affix un-, or could be strengthened by the affix plus-, or, for still greater emphasis, doubleplus-. Thus, for example, uncold meant ‘warm’, while pluscold and doublepluscold meant, respectively, ‘very cold’ and ‘superlatively cold’[…] By such methods it was found possible to bring about an enormous diminution of vocabulary. Given, for instance, the word good, there was no need for such a word as bad, since the required meaning was equally well — indeed, better — expressed by ungood. All that was necessary, in any case where two words formed a natural pair of opposites, was to decide which of them to suppress. Dark, for example, could be replaced   by unlight, or light by undark, according to preference.”

Fortunately, the stripping away of plethora is not the trend I observe in this “Un-” list. As a project assistant working through wordlists for Blake/An Illustrated Quarterly, I am by no means a member of the Ministry of Truth, “eliminating undesirable words and […] stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings.” Instead I see a celebration of proliferating terms as I make my small adjustments. These “Un-” words do not bring about “an enormous diminution of vocabulary,” but instead illustrate the variety of language both in criticism and in literature. Take, for example, W. J. T. Mitchell’s humorous acknowledgment of an “Unaccustomed” role as he embraces his mortal ignorance and delineates the limited scope of his scholarly inquiry:

Other words have brought me to more sobering dystopian shores as reminders of human failure. “Unpurified” lead me William Cowper’s lovely reprise of Paradise Lost in “Yardley Oak,” where he imagines Milton’s postlapsarian Adam, who longs to cower in shadow, alone with his guilt:

But most fortunately, I have not spent fruitless hours as I worked through the unique words of BIQ. I have found many grateful digressions while wandering the wordlists. Even when the path has veered toward dystopia, overall I see an abundance of words as scholars and poets seek truth. What more could I ask for while spell checking?

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Blake Quarterly

Book review: Paul Peucker, A Time of Sifting: Mystical Marriage and the Crisis of Moravian Piety in the Eighteenth Century

This review will appear in the spring 2017 issue of Blake. The reviewer is Marsha Keith Schuchard, the author of many articles and books on Blake and his circle. To the journal she has contributed “Blake’s Healing Trio: Magnetism, Medicine, and Mania,” “The Secret Masonic History of Blake’s Swedenborg Society,” and “Young William Blake and the Moravian Tradition of Visionary Art,” as well as an article with Keri Davies, “Recovering the Lost Moravian History of William Blake’s Family,” which is referenced below.

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Blake Quarterly

To-dos

I’ve more or less finished the Blake Quarterly winter issue and will be publishing it next week. The months ahead are traditionally good to me, as the centerpiece of our spring issue is the sales review by Bob Essick, which is a dream to edit. When I’m working on an issue I’m usually focused on the contents and on getting it out on time, to the exclusion of all but basic journal housekeeping tasks, such as updating IP addresses for institutional subscriptions or sending renewal reminders to individual subscribers.  The prospect of a few easier months, however, has my thoughts turning to two small but potentially insidious words: special project.

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Blake Quarterly

Throwing Out and Linking In

A tension between Morris and me (more of a comic routine, really) is that I’m always throwing out things in which he sees value. By value, I mean value for posterity. For instance, this summer I purged the filing cabinet in my office of files for some old Blake Quarterly issues, much to his dismay. We joke that at least I don’t work in rare books (The Gutenberg Bible? That old thing? I put it in the bin last week).

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Blake Quarterly

Spelling Lessons

In the six months since my last blog post, I have continued working through Adam McCune’s wordlists to check for misspellings in Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly. I have moved from lowercase to uppercase, from s-z to S-Z. I’m about 60% through the second list, and have been training with Katherine Calvin to work on image markup next, a process which Adam Engel has described in a previous post. My time spent sporadically drifting between issues, my editorial swerve guided by individual words, is coming to an end (at least for now). But as I move away from this task, I would be remiss if I did not mention how much I have learned in the process of wandering through the randomness of single-occurrence words.

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BAND, Blake Quarterly

Blogging about the blog

It’s no secret, given Mike’s recent preview of the technical summary and tweets like this

Delighted to be shown upcoming redesigned @BlakeArchive site by Joe Viscomi, Michael Fox, Joseph Fletcher. pic.twitter.com/r081bruJvJ

— Alan Liu (@alanyliu) February 10, 2016

that the Blake Archive is undergoing a top-to-bottom cosmetic and structural redesign, the kind that takes thousands of hours and elicits oohs and aahs when it’s revealed.

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