My Blakean Life

I have been lax in celebrating William Blake’s birthday, which passed by recently, on Nov. 28th. A Londoner almost all of his life, he was born in 1757 and died in 1827, just short of his 70th birthday. He’s best known for The Songs of Innocence and of Experience, and within that, the poem “The Tyger,” and also for an excerpt from his long poem Milton a Poem which was set to music by Hubert Parry in a piece called “Jerusalem” (And did those feet…), a composition used as a school song for many schools around the world also famously covered by Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Selections from “Auguries of Innocence” are found in the Tomb Raider movies, his art in the Hannibal Lecter movies, and his poems are probably used for lyrics by contemporary musicians more than any other poet from any time. There are book-length lists of Blake poems set to music. 

I didn’t learn about Blake in school, however — I learned of him when I heard the song “William Blake,” which was written by Terry Scott Taylor for the band Daniel Amos on their Vox Humana album. Hearing that song was enough to get me to rush to — remember these? — a B. Dalton Bookseller, where I picked up a copy of the Viking Portable Blake. That started me on a journey that took me through graduate school, a dissertation, my first book, and then two Rock and Romanticism books. But it was all about music and literature from the beginning, not just the stuff they make you read in school, as it was for Blake himself, who originally sang many of those poems at dinner parties to his own original musical compositions. He was said to have a good singing voice, and scholars of music notated his compositions at the time, though those are lost to us now. Roy Starling was my first instructor in Romanticism, and he made Romantic poetry come alive for me, as he did all the literature he taught to all of his students at the college and high school levels. 

I chose Blake because I wanted a subject of study that I could attend to for twenty years without getting bored, and he has not disappointed. In addition to my own writing about Blake, I was also privileged to work with Michael Phillips on three occasions for Blake printmaking demonstrations, one of these resulting in an exhibit at Rollins College and another in an exhibit curated by Lee Fearnside that consisted of contemporary artists inspired by Blake alongside Phillips’s own reproductions of Blake’s work through his reproduction of his printmaking methods. 

And Blake has informed and inspired my own creative work — following in his footsteps I’m working on my own reworking of Milton’s Paradise Lost as a steampunk western as well as assorted collections of my own poetry. We will see where it all leads, but I remain grateful for what Blake has meant to me.

I should end this with Blake’s own words… 

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
Bring me my arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land.

Rock and Romanticism on RCRR

Many thanks to the website Romantic Circles Reviews and Receptions for inviting me to guest post to their blog about my Rock and Romanticism titles, and many thanks to Suzanne Barnett for inviting me to do so.

Rock and Romanticism: Post-Punk, Goth, and Metal as Dark Romanticisms

Cover Image, Rock and Romanticism: Post-Punk, Goth, and Metal as Dark Romanticisms
Cover photo: Taylor Fickes

Rock and Romanticism: scholarship with a soundtrack. Yes, I have two anthologies with the main title Rock and Romanticism. The first was published early February 2018 by Lexington Books, and was focused on Blake and Wordsworth and, very generally, the genre of classic rock.

This second book is Rock and Romanticism: Post-Punk, Goth, and Metal as Dark Romanticisms (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming late May 2018) and is focused just where the title implies: on the gothic or “dark Romanticism” as it is sometimes called and on its musical counterparts in rock. The first book states a thesis about the relationship between rock and roll and Romanticism. This book restates that thesis and then extends it to different genres of music and literature.

This page provides chapter descriptions and a lot more. If you liked the first book, you’ll like this one too: those interested in one really need to get both. If you’re drawn to this project, please consider requesting that your libraries order it. A more formal description of the project follows.

Because I’ve recently published two edited anthologies with the same top title, I’ve created this video explaining the origin of these books and the differences between the two:

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The edited anthology Rock and Romanticism: Post-Punk, Goth, and Metal as Dark Romanticisms (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018) is now available for preorder on the publisher’s website and will ship in late May 2018. I’m providing information here for potential readers, reviewers, and college and university librarians who may be interested in this book. If you wish to review this anthology for your publication, please contact James Rovira at jamesrovira@gmail.com with your name, credentials, and the name of the publication for which you wish to review this work.

But I’d like to provide a bit of personal history before I get into details about the book: my introduction to English Romanticism (my first way in to the vast labyrinth that is “Romanticism”) occurred in two stages. First, through the song “William Blake” on the Daniel Amos album Vox Humana (1984). That song made me run to the local B. Dalton Booksellers (remember those?) to pick up a copy of The Viking Portable William Blake.

I read it through the first time, cover to cover, in a befuddled haze, but I loved it. Daniel Amos, “William Blake,” Vox Humana:

Next, when my undergraduate English Romantics professor at Rollins College, Dr. Roy Starling, wanted to explain to his students what the publication of Lyrical Ballads meant to the 1790s, he compared it to this moment in rock history, the moment when Bob Dylan the folk singer plugged in and went electric:

And that was how I first understood Romanticism as a literary phenomenon. Thank you, Dr. Starling. In both cases, my way in to Romanticism was rock music from the 1960s to the 1980s.

Rock and Romanticism: Post-Punk, Goth, and Metal as Dark Romanticisms explores the relationships among the musical genres of post-punk, goth, and metal and seventeenth- to nineteenth-century American and European Romanticisms in their literary, artistic, and musical expressions. It argues that these contemporary forms of music are not only influenced by but are an expression of Romanticism continuous with their seventeenth- through nineteenth-century influences. Figures such as Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Keats, Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, Friedrich, Schlegel, Beethoven, and Hoffman are brought alongside the musical and visual aesthetics of the Rolling Stones, the New Romantics, the Pretenders, Joy Division, Nick Cave, Tom Verlaine, emo, Eminem, My Dying Bride, and Norwegian black metal to explore the ways that Romanticism continues into the present in its many varying forms and expressions. Book details:

Rock and Romanticism: Post-Punk, Goth, and Metal as Dark Romanticisms ~ James Rovira, ed. ~ Hardcover ISBN 978-3-319-72687-8 ~eBook ISBN 978-3-319-72688-5 ~ DOI10.1007/978-3-319-72688-5 ~ pp. 330 ~ hardcover: $109.00 (£80.00); ebook: $84.99 (£63.99). This collection is part of the series Palgrave Studies in Music and Literature, P. Lumsden and M. Katz Montiel, editors.

Chapters are listed below. Many and profuse thanks M. Katz Montiel for being a great series editor (he made every chapter better), to Palgrave Macmillan’s editorial team, and to Dr. Mark McCutcheon (see the Nick Cave chapter description) for his work assembling these playlists. After the Preface and Introduction, songs are arranged in the order in which they appear in the chapter.

I’ve created iTunes playlists for each chapter that are linked within chapter descriptions. Also check out the iTunes Master Playlist for this anthology that combines all available songs (over 200) and the Spotify Master Playlist.

Preface and Introduction: “Theorizing Rock/Historicizing Romanticism” James Rovira. Check out his iTunes profile.

  1. “Empathy for the Devil: The Origins of Mick Jagger’s Devil in John Milton’s London” (pp. 27-44) by Evan LaBuzetta, Ph.D., Cambridge University. Independent scholar, founder of Writling Language Consultants.
    • Chapter summary
      • Evan LaBuzetta’s “Empathy for the Devil: The Origins of Mick Jagger’s Devil in John Milton’s London” analyzes the political discourse and outlines the discursive practices that influenced John Milton in his development of the character of Satan in Paradise Lost. Milton’s Satan was reinterpreted by the Romantics and later appropriated by Mick Jagger in “Sympathy for the Devil.” According to LaBuzetta, the rise of personal interpretation of Scripture in an era of vicious conflict led various combatants in the English Civil Wars to identify their domestic opponents with Satan. In pamphlets, writers could insist on their opponents’ Satanic origins regardless of outward appearance—because Satan can transform himself into an “angel of light”—while at the same time positing their own demonization as a sign of the righteousness of their cause. Through the English Civil Wars, rebellion against civil authority came to be seen as different than rebellion against God, establishing a “paradox of individual authority” by the time of Milton’s writing. Once God is dethroned as a “self-justifying principle,” a writer like Shelley could thrill to the active, virile, self-confident aspects of Satan’s character and declare that Milton’s Satan is far preferable to Milton’s God. Milton anthropomorphized Satan, and later readers came to see him in personal, non-religious terms: as a heroic individual striving against a tyrannical, self-imposing force, one with whom readers or rock fans could empathize.
    • Music
    • Literature
    • Get the iTunes playlist
  2. “‘Bliss was it in that shirt to be alive’: Connecting Romanticism and New Romanticism Through Dress” (pp. 45-59) by Emily Bernhard Jackson, Lecturer, University of Exeter.
    • Chapter summary
      • Skipping ahead about ten years after the Stones expressed sympathy for the devil, Emily Bernhard-Jackson’s “The Semiotics of the Ruffled Shirt: Connecting Romanticism and New Romanticism” shifts focus from linguistic content to visual surfaces in her comparison of the New Romantics of the early 1980s to English Romantics such as Byron. Rejecting the assumption that the New Romantics were glib and apolitical, she asserts their carefully managed, glittering surfaces were acts of subversion within Thatcher’s England, and these rock stars’ androgyny and even specific fashion choices—such as the ruffled shirt—carefully and not just coincidentally parallel second generation English Romantics such as Byron. Fluidity of sexual identity served the purpose of resisting full industrialization during 1980s’ England in a way parallel to the poets’ resistance of incipient industrialism in Romantic England, making dandyism and glitter statements against the brutal grayness of the working-class employment described by Löwy and Sayre, a very observable “mechanized conquest of the environment” under industrialization.
    • Music
    • Literature
    • Get the iTunes playlist
  3. “‘Crying Like a Woman ‘Cause I’m Mad Like a Man’: Chrissie Hynde, Gender, and Romantic Irony” (pp. 61-82) by Sherry R. Truffin, Associate Professor of English, Campbell University.
  4. “A Northern ‘Ode on Melancholy’?—The Music of Joy Division” (pp. 83-100) by Caroline Langhorst, Ph.D Candidate, University of Mainz.
  5. “‘Little crimeworn histories’: Nick Cave and the Roots-Raves-Rehab Story of Rock Stardom” (pp. 101-120) by Mark McCutcheon, Professor of Literary Studies, Athabasca University. Check out his blog.
  6. “Postcards from Waterloo: Tom Verlaine’s Historical Constellations” (pp. 121-143) by Len von Morzé, Associate Professor of English, University of Massachusetts, Boston.
  7. “Manner, Mood, and Message: Bowie, Morrissey, and the Complex Legacy of Frankenstein” (pp. 145-161) by Samuel Lyndon Gladden, Associate Dean of the School of Human Sciences and Humanities and Professor of Literature, University of Houston, Clear Lake.
    • Chapter summary
      • Samuel Gladden shifts focus to monstrosity in “Manner, Mood, and Message: Bowie, Morrissey, and the Complex Legacy of Frankenstein.” He compares Bowie’s and Morrissey’s appropriations of the figure of Frankenstein’s Creature to explore their differing responses to isolation and loneliness. In Gladden’s account, Bowie focuses on the discardedness of the Creature as he adopts and discards personae just as Frankenstein abandoned his Creature. Bowie ultimately gathers up many of his previous personae in the song and video “Blackstar,” particularly his first personae, Major Tom, who allows Bowie to revisit the trope of being in an alien environment in anticipation of his own impending death. Morrissey, on the other hand, focuses his attention on the Frankensteinian themes of hybridity or bricolage in “November Spawned a Monster,” emphasizing that Morrissey adopted as his own the hybridity or bricolage associated with the Creature through a variety of personae with disabilities, all of them set within an “idealized past.” The disfigurements of the subject described by Löwy and Sayre, therefore, assume material form in Morrissey’s various personae.
    • Music
    • Literature
    • Get the iTunes playlist
  8. “Tales of the Female Lover: the Poetics of Desire in To Bring You My Love and Is This Desire?” (pp. 163-181) by Catherine Girodet, Ph.D. candidate Université Paul Valéry – Montpellier, and faculty, English Department, Universitie De Creteil.
  9. Emocosms: Mind-Forg’d Realities in Emo(tional) Rock Music” (pp. 183-197) by Eike Träger, Ph.D. candidate, University of Cologne, Köln, Germany.
  10. “‘I possess your soul, your mind, your heart, and your body’: External and Internal Gothic Hauntings in Eminem’s Relapse” (pp. 199-213) by Christopher Stampone, Ph.D., Southern Methodist University.
  11. “‘The Female Is Such Exquisite Hell’: The Romantic Agony of My Dying Bride” (pp. 215-233) by Matthew J. Heilman, Ph.D., Duquesne University.
  12. “Ashes Against the Grain: Black Metal and the Grim Rebirth of Romanticism” (pp. 235-257) by Julian Knox, Assistant Professor of English, Georgia College.

Bibliography (pp. 259-278)
Discography (pp. 279-284)
Index (pp. 285-302)

Cover photo: Taylor Fickes.

Errata: if you see any errors on this page or in the book, please email James Rovira.

2018: My Year of the Edited Anthology

Yes, blatant self-promotion here: I have a few publications coming out this year, and they’re edited anthologies, either my own or my contributions of chapters. I don’t feel too bad writing about it, as I love doing this work, so I love talking about it. But I also love hearing other people talk about the work that they’re doing, and I like promoting the work of others — I love it when people I’m connected to produce good things, and I like taking about that too.

There’s also a bit of an ethical imperative behind book promotion: if a publisher invests in your work by publishing it, you should feel obligated to promote it — to help the publisher recover that investment. On a side note, you can trust me when I say there is no real money in almost all academic publishing for the authors of these works, at least not in terms of direct compensation for the publication. I got one check a year for three years for my first book, Blake and Kierkegaard: Creation and Anxiety (Continuum/Bloomsbury 2010). Each check was big enough to take my wife out to dinner to an Olive Garden / Red Lobster kind of restaurant, but it wouldn’t cover the sitter too. It sold about the average number of copies for an academic book, 300-350. It’s listed in over 1000 libraries around the world, but shared databases mean that libraries don’t have to own their own copy of a book to have access to it.

But best of all, because these are all edited anthologies, I’m not only promoting my work, but the work of colleagues around the world. So what I’m really saying here is, “check out this interesting work that we’ve all come together to do.” Publications appear in the order of their release.

Rock and Romanticism: Blake and Wordsworth, Book Cover
Taylor Fickes, cover photo. Fickes Photo.

Rock and Romanticism: Blake, Wordsworth, and Rock from Dylan to U2 (Lexington Books, February 2018), edited by James Rovira. Check out the book page to see descriptions of each chapter, lists of musical works discussed, lists of literary works discussed, and links to iTunes playlists associated with each chapter. Most of the music covered in this volume falls in the category of classic rock or folk/roots/country rock (Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Rush, U2, Blackberry Smoke), but we have chapters engaging acts like Lil Wayne and the 1960s’ Italian pop singer Piero Ciampi. Why I love writing about music.

 

 

 

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Kierkegaard, Literature, and the Arts (Northwestern UP, February 2018), edited by Eric Ziolkowski. Great study of the subject under discussion edited by a leading Kierkegaard scholar — not to mention the contributor list, which is almost a who’s who of Kierkegaard scholarship. I was fortunate to contribute chapter 12, “The Moravian Origins of Kierkegaard’s and Blake’s Socratic Literature.”

 

 

 

 

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Assembling the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Essays on the Social, Cultural and Geopolitical Domains (McFarland, March 2018), edited by Julian C. Chambliss, Bill L. Svitavsky, and Daniel Fandino. I was privileged to contribute “Silly Love Songs, Gender, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Avengers: Age of Ultron.” The table of contents isn’t available yet.

 

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Rock and Romanticism: Post-Punk, Goth, and Metal as Dark Romanticisms (Palgrave Macmillan, April 2018), edited by James Rovira. Yes, it’s a second rock and Romanticism book released in the same year, but it’s completely different from the first with its focus on the Gothic. I’ve built a book page for this one too, which should go live either mid to late March. The book page will also have chapter descriptions, links to the music and literature under discussion, and links to iTunes and Spotify playlists. This anthology takes the thesis stated in the previous Rock and Romanticism book then narrows and focuses it upon the Gothic. After an initial discussion of Milton, Shelley, and the Rolling Stones’s “Sympathy for the Devil,” chapters focus on music from the New Romantics and the Pretenders onward, covering a variety of acts: post-punk, goth/emo, Eminem, and metal bands.

In development: Interpretation: Theory: History (under contract with Lexington Books). Really interesting project in which contributors examine a variety of reading practices from Plato to Object Oriented Ontology against their historical backgrounds to establish a dialectic between our reading practices and their social milieus. I hope to send a first full draft to the publisher by the end of March.

Active CFPs:

The next two projects are in very early stages of development and continue to narrow and focus my study of rock and Romanticism:

Rock and Romanticism: The David Bowie Edition (will probably be retitled David Bowie and Romanticism).

Women in Rock: Women in Romanticism

 

Active CFPs, Rock and Romanticism

Following on the heels of the recently published Rock and Romanticism: Blake, Wordsworth, and Rock from Dylan to U2 (Lexington Books, February 2018) and the soon to be published Rock and Romanticism: Post-Punk, Goth, and Metal as Dark Romanticisms (Palgrave Macmillan, April 2018), I’ve issued two more CFPs for future Rock and Romanticism editions.

I’ve extended due dates, which will remain flexible. Click the link above to the Blake and Wordsworth edition if you’d like to see what a completed volume looks like.
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