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Blake Archive Video Tutorials: where have we come from and where are we going?

It has been about three years since the first video in what is now a series of video tutorials on the various features of the Blake Archive was uploaded to YouTube. It has been a little over a year since I completed the first of the handful that I would eventually write and record. Making these videos has been an interesting and valuable experience, and in the process I’ve learned a lot about microphones, screen recording, and perseverance. The original spreadsheet of video ideas from which we have been working is nearing completion and another video ideas brainstorming session is likely in order.

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Digital Humanities, Guest Post, Uncategorized

Slaying the Demon King: William Blake and Urizen in Devil May Cry 5

Julian S. Whitney
Wabash College

Video games have become a popular medium in which to feature excerpts from Romantic poetry. The 2019 post-apocalyptic action game developed by Hideo Kojima, Death Stranding, originated with a 2016 reveal trailer that showcased a short excerpt from William Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence.”[1] Likewise, the 2014 side-scrolling exploration game titled Elegy for a Dead World requires its players to write a diary based on their exploration through three worlds inspired by the literature of Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and John Keats.[2] These video games incorporate Romantic poetry as a way to contextualize, thematize, and construct the narrative and mechanical aspects of their respective designs. But what happens when a video game appropriates certain mythological elements of Romanticism and integrates them into the foundation of its own story?

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Urizen, Bound and Unbound

In previous posts on Hell’s Printing Press, I have explored the process of illustration markup and textual tagging at the WBA (see my earlier posts about textual tagging broadly and focused studies of tags like “streams of gore,” “lunging,” and “ecstasy”). In addition to tags related to objects, movements, and emotions, the WBA also aims to identify particular figures significant to Blake’s works and life. These include historical figures, such as Catherine Blake and George Romney; biblical characters including Potiphar and Job; and allegories like Mirth and Joy. However, one of the most important groups of tagged figures are characters created by Blake—from Oothoon and Los to Rintrah and Orc—who often recur throughout his poetry and designs.

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Imaging Ecstasy: Tagging Emotions in Illustration Markup

My contributions to Hell’s Printing Press typically investigate aspects of my own job at the WBA—illustration markup—and focus on the process of textual tagging (see my earlier post about textual tagging broadly as well as studies of the tags “streams of gore” and “lunging”). Assigning tags from our list of terms is both an illuminating and challenging process as Blake continually experimented with new iconography, forms, and materials. Tagging specific figures from literature, religion, and Blakean mythology often involves research to identify characters such as Lamech, Libicoco, and the “nameless shadowy female.” However, some of the most difficult tags to assign, I have found, are those associated with mental states and emotions.

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So then what happened?

Seven months ago I wrote a blog titled “Some Promising Forays into Transcribing Blake’s Marginalia.” Much has changed!

After months of grappling with the logistical and philosophical challenges involved in marginalia transcription, we now have what we think will be the actual marginalia tag-set moving forward (though to be sure, there are a few questions we’re saving for Blake Camp). 

As a follow up to the “Promising Forays” I want to provide a brief quasi-narrative description of how we got from point A to point B. 

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BATS, Uncategorized

Teaching Blake in a Time of Trump

In addition to my position as a project assistant at the Blake Archive, I teach in the Art Department at UNC Chapel Hill. This fall I am teaching an advanced undergraduate course called “Art in an Age of Revolution” that surveys visual culture of Europe and the Americas from the middle of the eighteenth century to the July Revolution of 1830. From the beginning of the semester, I have encouraged my students to draw thematic connections between the historical material presented in class and contemporary discourse on revolution and politics at large. On Tuesday morning, with Sunday’s presidential debate still fresh in everyone’s minds, a class discussion that began with Blake’s designs for John Gabriel Stedman’s Narrative of a Five Years Expedition against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam grew into a debate on contemporary rhetoric about sexual consent and the intertwined issues of empathy and difference, particularly in relation to protests like the Black Lives Matter movement.

bb499.1.2.com.100 bb499.1.8.com.100

John Gabriel Stedman, Narrative, of a Five Years’ Expedition, against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam, 1796, object 2, “A Negro hung alive by the Ribs to a Gallows” (left) and object 8, “Flagellation of a Female Samboe Slave” (right), William Blake Archive.
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Bringing Together Team Color Code and Team Marginalia

Caught off guard by the fact that it’s my turn to write a blog post, I’ve decided to write about the recents attempts we’ve undertaken at BAND for a shotgun wedding between Team Color Code and Team Marginalia. It all started when the Marginalia people realized that, Blake’s annotations being what they were, it was extremely confusing to constantly differentiate between which words were part of the original typographic edition and which were Blake’s comments in an .xml document.

We thought it would be much less muddled if we could completely separate the typographic text and Blake’s hand in two distinct layers.For this purpose, TCC’s use of seemed useful, since it allows us to indicate multiple strata of writing in the same physical space. (For more on TCC’s use of – “Setting the stage, losing the line” http://www.19.bbk.ac.uk/articles/10.16995/ntn.728/) Unlike Blake’s letters and other manuscripts, The Four Zoas and the marginalia share another feature – the text is not written in one large block but in (sometimes) discrete chunks on various parts of the page. This favored the use of , so that we could separate out different comments based on where they are placed on the page.

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Lavater, p.118

So, to decide whether these two teams could harmoniously share these new tags, we had a meeting. It was crowded, loud and enthusiastic, and Morris and Anna couldn’t even fit inside the room. I think the whole department realized that something important was going on.The following are a couple of things we solved and some new problems we had as a result.

Eric suggested that since TM’s use of was significantly different, we could use and to designate the two kinds of text. This works wonders, since now we have a better way of identifying the stages than the vague and . But, as Eric also pointed out, in order to use the term, we would have to be consistent with TCC”s use . Thus, if Blake crossed out a line of annotation and rewrote it, we would need an additional stage for that line. How would we fit that into the new TM schema? What would we even call it?

We decided that we would use for the typographic text in the first stage, and use the necessary zones (header, footer, right margin, left margin and textblock) depending on where the comments are placed in the annotation stage. While that worked well for most of the documents, Blake’s comments often crossed over zone boundaries and upset all our plans.

We’re still figuring out what to do next. As Shannon said, I’m under the oath of strictest secrecy to divulge our current plans, but I’m sure the next blog posts will reveal a little more of what we’re up to.

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Fuseli’s “Night Mare” in Tweets: Social Media, Academic Circles, and the Public-Facing Projects of WBA and BIQ

“Oh dear – a night mare,” the tweet read. A familiar image popped up on my Twitter feed just the other day, of an engraving of Henry Fuseli’s “The Night Mare” (1795), referencing the Blake Archive Twitter account and shared from a 2008 issue of the Blake Illustrated Quarterly (BIQ) by Anke Timmermann, historian of medieval and early modern alchemy, medicine, and science, former Munby Fellow at Cambridge University Library (2013/14), and antiquarian bookseller at Bernard Quaritch Ltd.

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