All Text and No Image Makes Blake a Dull Artist: Inseparable Interplay Between Poetry and Picture in Blake's Multimedia Art


  • Peter Heath Memorial University of Newfoundland


William Blake, Songs of Innocence and Experience, image and text, multimedia, canon, anthologies, “The Sick Rose”, “Earth's Answer”, “The Chimney Sweeper”, formalism, Romanticism


Though certain Blake scholars may assert that it is superfluous to argue for the need to read or experience his illuminated works as both image and text, major canonical anthologies print the Songs of Innocence and Experience as written text without visuals. Incorporating and refuting ideas from W.J.T. Mitchell, Christopher Heppner, and Joseph Viscomi, this article argues that word-only representations of Blake's multimedia art are fundamentally flawed, and then proposes and demonstrates a practice for reading Blake's works as a multiplication between image and text. Taking “The Sick Rose,” “Earth's Answer,” and “The Chimney Sweeper” as examples, this argument develops potential readings of the interactions between Blake's media, and offers simple yet logical interpretations by viewing Blake's plates as comprehensive wholes rather than two distinct, separable works that happen to bear the same title.

Author Biography

Peter Heath, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Peter Heath is a Masters student in English Language and Literature at Memorial University of Newfoundland. He focuses primarily on formalist analysis of fused visual media such as graphic novels and video games, and has a background in math and physical science. Peter's favourite writers (and artists) include JRR Tolkien, Alan Moore, Mike Mignola, and William Blake, one of the most essential figures to the modern graphic novel form. In his (limited) spare time, Peter enjoys cooking, weight training, and stand-up comedy.