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William Blake and the Napoleon factor: rethinking empire and the Laocoön separate plate

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This essay examines a distinct shift in William Blake’s thoughts on empire, and argues that his Laocoön separate plate marks the culmination of his revised views. While Blake initially distinguished negative, commercial and tyrannical forms of empire from positive, non-tyrannical forms of empire that he conceived of as founded upon the arts, he subsequently did away with these distinctions, and came to see an irremediable link between imperial and commercial worlds. I argue that his changing views on empire must be situated against the backdrop of the empire-building of Napoleon as it relates to the appropriation of art, a backdrop that clarifies the particular focus on empire and commerce of so many of the Laocoön separate plate’s inscriptions.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
JournalRomanticism and Victorianism on the Net
Issue number65
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015

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