There is a Blakean in the House

Today I gave a paper at the Ecclesiastical History Society’s Postgraduate Colloquim at the John Rylands Library. Papers were on “any topic in the history of Christianity,” thus allowing me to speak about Blake under the surprising auspices of a society which in name in manifestly un-Blakean (for Blake’s opinion of institutional Christianity, see his “Garden of Love” and “The Little Vagabond”).

I spoke about Blake’s illustrations of the Temptations of Christ — a subject with liturgical resonance in Lent, although Blake does typically innovative things with it. I think my audience enjoyed a dose of pictures as a change from parish records, and some of the papers I heard gave me some useful food for thought.

With delegates from both History and Religious Studies departments, there were quite a few discussions about disciplinary distinctions. Lots of people asked me whether I am an Art Historian; in a sense of course, I am, although I have always studied under the auspices of Religious Studies. Blake resists disciplinary distinctions, which is part of his appeal for me – indeed, as I’ve written before, one of the reasons I chose Religious Studies as my first degree was the range of disciplines it encompasses.

Meanwhile, my first panel is out of the way. This is a biannual “exam” to discuss the progress of my research with my two supervisors and a third person from within the university. I actually have a member of staff from the Whitworth Art Gallery as my third panel member; it was good to have an external perspective on my work and having someone from outside academia proper brought some enriching suggestions for my work. So I’m now moving on in earnest to my first chapter, which is on Blake’s conception of Christ’s ministry in the Gospels. More on that in due course.