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BERKELEY BLAKE WEEKEND
“William Blake: A Celebration” was the theme of a weekend conference held 1-2 March 1974 at the Berkeley campus of the University of California under the auspices of the University of California Extension. Morton Paley, program coordinator, introduced the program, which included slides, films, and a series of lectures.
David Erdman, State University of New York at Stony Brook, presented the first lecture of the series, “The Burden of the Present,” examining some of the contemporary political events that influenced Blake and other Romantic poets. He supplemented his lecture with a number of slides and offered an interpretation of some of the designs in Milton. His lecture was followed by the presentation of three films, The Vision of William Blake, Tyger, Tyger, and Holy Thursday, which concluded the first day of the Celebration.
The Saturday morning session included lectures by Hazard Adams, University of California, Irvine, Robert Essick, California State University at Northridge, and Morris Eaves, University of New Mexico. With particular attention to a passage from Europe, Hazard Adams examined some of the influences on “Blake’s Symbolism.” Blake as etcher and engraver was the subject of lectures by Robert Essick and Morris Eaves. In “William Blake, Book Illustrator,” Essick used slides to survey the development of Blake’s commercial engraving style and to explore some of the relationships between Blake’s work as a commercial engraver and as poet-painter. In a complementary lecture, “Blake versus the Printing Press,” Eaves used microphotographs of engravings to explain Blake’s rejection of ordinary means of printing and publishing in favor of “illuminated printing.”
Anne K. Mellor, Stanford University, opened the Saturday afternoon session of the series with her lecture “The Major Paintings,” using slides to show the iconography of Blake’s paintings. Taking a cue from the phrase, “I was only making a fool of you” (Island in the Moon), Robert Gleckner, University of California, Riverside, speculated that there may be a good deal more humor in Blake’s works than his readers are usually inclined to recognize. In “The Shorter Poems,” Gleckner pointed to passages in the lyrics where Blake may be using “non-sense” on his readers. In the concluding lecture, “The Longer Poems,” Morton D. Paley, University of California, Berkeley, showed slides of some of the plates of Milton and Jerusalem to illustrate his interpretation of the major designs in both poems.
In addition to the slides and films supplementing the lectures, there were a number of Blake’s prints on display at two exhibitions on the Berkeley campus. Among forty Blake prints shown at the University Art Museum from 13 February through 17 March were some of the illustrations to the Book of Job, to Blair’s Grave, and Young’s begin page 29 | Night Thoughts. This exhibition was organized by Museum Registrar Joy Feinberg and Morton Paley. The prints displayed were from the University Art Museum and other Bay Area collections, including the collection of Robert Essick. Materials for an exhibition of Blake books presented in the Main Library at Berkeley, 23 February-31 March, were from the Bancroft Library, Biology Library, the collection of Mrs. Charles C. Cushing, and the University Art Museum. Leslie Clark, Rare Books Librarian at the Bancroft Library, assisted Morton Paley with the arrangement of and commentary for this exhibition. (Our thanks to Donna Rix of the University of New Mexico for this item. Eds.)