While the global circulation of lines and images from Blake’s innovative multi-media art has received a fair amount of scholarly attention recently, the most circulated Blake line globally was never a part of that art, surviving to us only as a fair copy in a manuscript whose contents were never published in Blake’s lifetime. My talk looks at the frequent citation today of the opening lines of Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence,” and especially their call on us “To see the world in a grain of sand.” How and why did this piece of Blake’s corpus break free and end up circulating so spectacularly? What, if anything, might this extract and its circulation tell us about Blake, or about the media ecology in which he worked, that we haven’t learned already from studying the virality of other bits and pieces of Blake’s corpus? Building on – and complicating – claims I have made in the past about the insights that the viral circulation of Blake’s proverbs and pictures in contemporary culture might afford into Blake’s artistic project, my lecture touches on everything from the evidence of anthologies and Frankenstein to Google Ngrams and computer viruses.
Mike Goode is Professor of English at Syracuse University, where he teaches course on British Romanticism, media, ecocriticism, and the history of the novel. His book Romantic Capabilities: Blake, Scott, Austen, and the New Messages of Old Media was published by Oxford University Press in 2020, and his book Sentimental Masculinity and the Rise of History was published by Cambridge University Press in 2009. His articles and book chapters have appeared in a variety of journals, including Representations, ELH, Textual Practice, Romantic Circles, and PMLA.