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Re-sounding Radicalism: Echo in William Blake and the Chartist Poets Ernest Jones and Gerald Massey
[Thesis]. Manchester, UK: The University of Manchester; 2012.
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This thesis argues that William Blake’s poetry creates meaning through internal poetic echoes, and that these Blakean echoes re-sound in Ernest Jones and Gerald Massey’s Poetry. There is no demonstrable link between Blake and Chartism; this raises the question of how to account for poetic echoes that occur in the absence of a direct link. The thesis uses two complementary methodological strategies. The significance of the Blakean echoes in Jones and Massey’s work will be demonstrated through extensive close textual analysis. This is accompanied by the historically focused argument that the Blakean echoes in Chartist poetry can be explained by a shared underlying cultural matrix of radical politics and radical Christianity. Chapter 1 opens by presenting the evidence against a demonstrable link between Blake and the Chartists. It outlines how the lack of a direct link impacts upon our understanding of the Blakean echoes in Chartist poetry. Existing theories of influence insufficiently describe these textual effects; this chapter draws upon aspects of Intertextuality and New Historicist theory to propose that Blake, Jones and Massey’s poetry is best considered in terms of echo, re-sounding and correspondence. Chapter 2 addresses the question of how Blakean echoes can occur in the absence of a direct link. Using recent Blake scholarship as a methodological model, this chapter outlines the ‘cultural matrix’ theory, suggesting that Blake and the Chartists engaged with many of the same radical historical ‘threads’. Chapter 3 explores key examples of Shelleyan influence in Jones and Massey’s poetry. This chapter highlights the direct intertextual link between Shelley and the Chartists and demonstrates how Chartist poetry might be discussed in terms of influence and allusion. Chapter 4 outlines the most notable Blakean echoes in the poetry of Jones. Jones’ poetry resonates with images of Priestcraft and Kingcraft, as well as chains and binding; similar images play a central role in Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience. The chapter contains significant engagement with Blake studies; it presents Blake’s imagery as echoingly interconnected both within and across poems and collections. Chapter 5 extends this close textual exploration to the work of Massey. Massey’s poetry contains many of the key Blakean images identified in the work of Jones. However, ‘The Three Voices’ contains an uncanny resonance of Blake; echo occurs as mis-hearing and trace. ‘Echo’ is not being used as a simple substitute for ‘allusion’, ‘influence’ or ‘intertext’, but here denotes an entirely different textual effect that must be judged in new terms. The conclusion summarises the thesis and asks whether the radical nature of Blake, Jones and Massey’s shared culture may have affected not only their vocabulary of imagery, but also the way in which these images were deployed.
Chartist Poetry; Cultural Matrix; Echo; Ernest Jones; Gerald Massey; William Blake