Repetition, Representation and Revolution: Deleuze and Blake's America

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The purpose of this paper is to explore specific ways Gilles Deleuze's Difference & Repetition provides a productive critical framework for thinking about revolution in William Blake's America, A Prophecy and, in turn, the way that America's peculiar dramatization of revolution offers a specific political dimension to a Deleuzian ontology. Reading Blake's America in Deleuzean terms suggests an alternative to seeing the poem as either referring exclusively to the material word, or wholly to the idiosyncratic mental world of Blake's vision. The Deleuzean third alternative for a reading of Blake's America foregrounds what is at stake in the representation of revolution as an idea whose meaning is only guaranteed by its external determinations—its difference from something. The Deleuzean point about revolution in America is that such a revolution must be thought outside of its representations to produce the conditions for real historical difference. In this way, I am proposing a third way to think the term "revolution," in Blake's text in keeping with the way Deleuze defines difference and repetition, as the cornerstone of his critique of representation. This paper intends to produce a reading of the poem in which the notorious difficulty of Blake's references are more than cryptic problems to decode and render as something that we recognize, but, instead, a step into what Deleuze calls "an unrecognized and unrecognisable terra incognita" (136). Thus rather than trying to save Blake's text from charges of obscurity by making his text represent something we all understand, the challenge I offer here is to think the kind of destabilization of reference that Blake's text produces as a fundamental philosophical premise upon which meaningful change becomes possible.


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