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BOOK REVIEWS 103 the one hand, and ‘Vision,’ ‘Imagination,’ and ‘Prophecy’ on the other” (176), a distinction that tends to make creativity secondary. Blake’s writings repeatedly deny what Quinney sees as the fundamental reality of the self, and in seeking a usable Blake, Quinney limits the terms ofthat denial. She avoids examining his claims that his own vision is “two­ fold Always” and “fourfold” sometimes, or the references to “sensual en­ joyment” as a route to the “infinite.” She does not engage with the ex­ traordinary metamorphoses and births depicted in his mythology, in which relationships between mind, body and world-view are apparently subject to fundamental change. While the complex interrelations in Blake’s mythic universe can suggest that even the simplest cry from the heart may be con­ ditioned by the conceptions ofthe reasoning mind, or by the visions of the prophet, Quinney prefers to keep the “actual experience of subjectivity” ul­ timately apart from the conceptualizing intellect and the visionary imagina­ tion. While she brings to her studies a refreshing emphasis on Blake’s own capacity for doubt, she is inclined to discount the very sincerity ofhis faith. In her introduction she claims that Blake “flaunted his secular religiousness deliberately by constantly writing of God and Christ even though he was an atheist and unbeliever” (26). IfBlake is seen as an unbeliever and atheist, then his religious gestures, which look like signs of enthusiastic belief, be­ come instead a kind of affectation. To see Blake in this way is to turn him into the kind ofinsincere mocker he attacked with loathing. Ifone is going to characterize his distinctive beliefs as a form of atheism, it would be a good idea to examine those passages in his writings (e.g. the annotations to Bacon and Reynolds) in which Blake attacks atheism. But Quinney has lit­ tle time for such particulars. She is a fluent and perceptive critic, who illu­ minates some of the key problems addressed in Blake’s work. But some of the more challenging aspects of Blake’s thinking are either off her agenda or simply elude her. Andrew Lincoln Queen Mary, University of London Mary Favret. War at a Distance: Romanticism and the Making ofModem War­ time. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2010. Pp. 262. $60.00. In War at a Distance, Mary Favret proposes that we can understand British Romanticism as a wartime culture, one that is intimately suffused and de­ termined by the experience ofthose living during but not in a war. In part, her claim recognizes that Britain was almost constantly at war during the SiR, 51 (Spring 2012) 104 BOOK REVIEWS period, fighting in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars and a series of smaller conflicts that reached across the British empire. Equally, however, Favret is concerned with the forms of distance, whether geo­ graphic or temporal, that were a central feature of Britain’s cultural re­ sponse to warfare. War was only apprehended in Britain through the media dissemination of images of remote conflicts. It is this experience of medi­ ated distant war, war as represented in newspapers, the theater, poetry, mil­ itary dictionaries and prophecies, that constitutes modern wartime. Her study describes how this wartime experience was felt and articulated during the Romantic period, a formative moment in our own contemporary re­ sponse to war. In addition to thus linking Romanticism to the broader study ofwartime literature, a field which to date has been almost entirely weighted towards the world wars of the twentieth century, Favret’s study also draws upon re­ cent work on the study of affect. In particular, she seeks to reconceptualize wartime, viewing it not as a bounded and comprehensible historical period but as an “affecting experience,” one that “resonates beyond the here and now” (i i). Indeed, she defines affect as a sense or awareness that exists out­ side of rational understanding and views wartime literature itself as an “at­ tempt to trace and give shape to such affect” (i i). She thus challenges the notion that Romantic writers were ignorant or oblivious of their era’s wars by arguing that they were in fact incapable of “confining catastrophe to a different...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2330-118X
Print ISSN
0039-3762
Pages
pp. 103-107
Launched on MUSE
2020-03-19
Open Access
No
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