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Title: Conversion as a narrative, visual, and stylistic mode in William Blake's works
Author: Engell Jessen, Maria Elisabeth
ISNI:       0000 0004 2069 277X
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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This study suggests that Blake’s works can be understood as ‘conversion works,’ which seek to facilitate a broadly defined perceptual, spiritual, and intellectual conversion in the reader/viewer. This conversion is manifested in various ways in the texts, images, narrative structures, and style of Blake’s works. Part I discusses the genesis of the narrative of Blake’s own conversion and introduces critical discussions of the conversion narrative as a genre, showing how the predominant interpretative paradigm of the conversion narrative (as an autobiographical reportage describing a one-off experience) is challenged by the shapes that conversion narratives have taken throughout history, suggesting a broader definition of conversion literature. In Part II, I analyze Blake’s depictions of Christ in his illustrations to Night Thoughts in relation to eighteenth-century Moravian art, and the way in which they are later used in The Four Zoas. I discuss how Milton can be understood as a multilayered conversion narrative, how the manifestation of conversion in Jakob Boehme’s works might have influenced it, and how a related conversion is manifested in Jerusalem (1804-20). Finally, I show how Blake represents conversion in his illustrations to Pilgrim’s Progress and the Book of Job, emphasizing the importance of vision and the inclusion of protagonist and viewer in the divine body. Together, these analyses show conversion as a gradually developing presence in Blake’s works, exploring the conversion moment as a way into the shared salvific space of the body of Christ for fictive characters, author, and reader or viewer together.
Supervisor: Rowland, Christopher Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Art ; Visual art and representation ; English Language and Literature ; Theology and Religion ; William Blake ; conversion ; Moravians ; Jakob Boehme