William Blake, poster boy

Fun fact: I’ve reached this season in life without ever creating a poster – even though I’ve created institutes for grad students and for faculty that culminate in a great flurry of poster-creation and presentations.

Time to walk the walk. My first poster, illustrating the use of Mediathread in my William Blake seminar at Columbia, will be on display at CTL’s Celebration of Teaching and Learning Symposium on Friday – and I’ll be nearby, inviting you to take a look. “The eye sees more than the heart knows,” after all.

As a preview, here’s a picture of the poster (which links to a PDF version that you can download and actually read) – and, below that, a short description of it.


From text to context: Multimedia Blake

Far too often, students studying the illuminated books produced by William Blake do so in a fractured landscape. Blake’s text is usually lifted out of its original context and standardized into typography, and this abstracted text is usually the primary focus of analysis in an English class. While students might referred to images of Blake’s original plates to retrieve a sense of the complicating interplay of image and text in his work, it is difficult for them to analyze such interplay with the specificity they bring to the close reading of text, and even more difficult to store and cite such source material in analytic frameworks.

This poster illustrates the use of Mediathread to help close this gap, allowing students to iteratively practice analysis of the interplay of text and illustration in Blake’s illuminated books. Such analysis, entailing close reading of Blake’s plates online at the Digital Blake Archive (an early and important digital humanities initiative at the University of Virginia), helped students develop a capacity to evaluate Blake’s deliberate complicating of his poetry through illustration. It also allowed them to recognize and interrogate his resistance to mechanized print production. Analyzing digitized versions of the plates, paradoxically, gave my students a much better handle on the details and implications of his deliberately archaic production process.