The William Blake Blog

Global Blake: Adriano Ercolani
In this wide ranging talk, Adriano Ercolani shows us some of the ways that Blake has been captured in popular culture in recent years.

My paper argues that the great fascination of William Blake’s philosophy, and works, deeply influenced highly prominent figures of contemporary pop culture. From Aldous Huxley to Jim Morrison, Bob Dylan to Alan Moore, Allen Ginsberg to Patti Smith, Aleister Crowley to U2, William Blake has been a huge source of inspiration. 

I believe that it is necessary to discard a certain deformation of his message by which Blake may seem as some sort of satanist prophet by shining light on a deeper philosophical awareness of his poetical vision. Firstly, I would like to show how Aleister Crowley’s misinterpretations led to a general misunderstanding of Blake’s works and thoughts, which are too complex to be reduced to an occultist stereotype. Subsequently, I would like to underline the differences between the shallow fascination of Blake’s figure, that we can meet in Jim Morrison’s lyrics, and the constant reference to his poetry found in Bob Dylan’s songs (i.e. Gates of Eden and Every Grain of Sand) and Alan Moore’s work (i.e. From HellJerusalem and Watchmen). Those are just examples of two ways of approaching the figure of William Blake. 

So, on one side we can find a series of just skin-deep quotes (i.e. the Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience by the rock band U2),  whereas on the other hand a much more interesting legacy of his cultural research, as in Aldous Huxley and William Butler Yeats. The aim of my dissertation is to show how, in both ways, William Blake is one of the most influential figures of modern western culture.

Adriano Ercolani is an italian critic, who regularly publishes articles on some of the most followed Italian cultural reviews and websites: Repubblica XL, Il Fatto Quotidiano online, Linus, Globalist, minima&moralia and many others. He has published many articles about William Blake’s works, and organized the cultural event “Blake in Rome” in 2016.