Blake, Gender and Sexuality in the 21stC (Oxford, 15-16 July 2010)

full name / name of organization: 
Helen Bruder and Tristanne Connolly
contact email: 

Call for Papers:

Blake, Gender and Sexuality
in the Twenty-First

15-16 July 2010, The Christopher
Room, St Aldate's
Church, Oxford, UK

Over the many years since Irene
Tayler's classic 'The
Woman Scaly' opened up feminist debate about Blake's art, generations
critics have wrestled and struggled with, delighted in and savoured,
provocative and abundant sexual visions. Throughout the 70s, 80s, 90s
and 00s,
trends, tastes and judgements shifted and swirled, from angry critique
searching psychoanalysis, through heavy theory and politicized
to wary appreciation and queer celebration. Outside academia, too,
reputation as a prophet of free love and naked beauty remained a
nuanced yet
perennial global presence. And yet, amazingly, there has to date never
been a
gathering of critics, artists, writers and fans solely devoted to
of and keen debate about these significant aspects of Blake's work.

Blake, Gender and Sexuality in
the Twenty-First
Century aims to become that gathering, to celebrate and build upon past
knowledge as it reaches toward likely concerns of the future. We
eagerly invite
abstracts for papers which range widely and wildly over sexy Blake,
anchoring themselves to at least one of the conference title's key
gender, sexuality, and current and future approaches to these fertile

Topics (on a far from exhaustive
list) might include:

  • how far queer and camp readings of Blake can go; how
    the engagements of gay writers and artists with his art illuminate this
  • what Blake might have to say about genuine perversity,
    perversion, obscenity, in a postmodern context where transgression is
    (supposedly) ubiquitous
  • how Blake's often neglected humour might speak to
    issues of gender and sexuality
  • considerations of sexuality and performance: for
    example, the potential of transvestism to challenge androgyny as a
    sexual axiom / ideal
  • revisiting classically troublesome scenes, characters,
    scenarios: perhaps asking what Thel's decision, Oothoon's eroticism,
    Enitharmon's 'Womans love' or Ololon's sacrifice look like these days,
    not to
    mention Orc's passions, Los's creativity, Urizen's brooding or Albion's
  • fresh thought on classic feminist dilemmas: for
    instance, can and do woman fully possess and inhabit the humanity Blake
    cherished? and what precisely is the sexual shape of his variously and
    copiously rendered 'human form divine'?
  • religion and sex: re/considering, or adding to, the
    recent revelations about Blake's erotico-spiritual contexts; also
    exploration of just how comfortably devotional approaches to Blake's
    sit alongside his daring sexualization of the spiritual life and the
  • the women in Blake's life: relationships personal and
    professional; also his friendships with men, especially where
    brotherhood takes
    emotional or confrontational forms
  • historicist considerations of eighteenth and
    nineteenth century understandings of sexuality, or of sexual
    difference, roles
    or rights; also the thorny of issue of ahistorical expectations, and
    interpretive influence of the many things readers would like Blake to
    thought, commended, practised
  • gender and genre, or questions of material practice:
    is there, for example, a sexual subtext to some of Blake's aesthetic or
    technical choices?

Blake, Gender and Sexuality in
the Twenty-First
Century is an independent, self-sustaining event. We intend to host
debate in a genial atmosphere, offering delegates two days of
intellectual and
social pleasures. One way a leisurely pace will be achieved is through
and variety, so we will welcome short, pointed papers.

We invite 200-word abstracts for
papers which will
last a maximum of twenty minutes, to be sent to Helen Bruder and
Connolly at by
15 December 2009 at the latest.

For more information, and to
register, please visit
the conference website at