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James, Blake's Laocoon (abstract)

  • David E. James. "Blake's Laocoon: A Degree Zero of Literary Production". PMLA 98 (1983): 226ñ36.
IN THIS ARTICLE David James argues that Blake's engraving of Laocoon constitutes a protest against the commodification of art. It reattributes the subject (from Laocoon and his sons, all classical figures, to the Hebraic figures Jah, Satan and Adam), and it parallels a commercial paradigm by propogating evil in the form of war, both intra-textually and in the relationship of image and text. The engraving "allowed for a the peculiar combination of text and illustration, including an ambiguous and often contradictory relation between the two that frequently generates meanings of which neither would be capable alone" (226). 
    James asserts that "[t]he plate evidences to an extreme degree the formal effects of Blake's mature practices of emphasizing the spatial and graphic qualitites of his text and of combining text and illustration in such a way that the plate becomes a unit of composition." James makes the visual discourse the master of the text. 
    In closing James calls Blake's Laocoon "a characteristic polemic against allegory" (239). (Joan Menefee.)
 

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Michael Hancher

Department of English, University of Minnesota

URL: <http://umn.edu/home/mh/txtimjm3.html>

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Created 24 November 1997

Revised 23 December 1997

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