English, Department of


First Advisor

Stephen C. Behrendt

Date of this Version



A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: English, Under the Supervision of Professor Stephen C. Behrendt. Lincoln, Nebraska: Apr, 2019.

Copyright (c) 2019 Seoha Lee


This thesis examines William Blake’s verbal and visual art from the perspective that disability is a physical and mental condition that is viewed by society as deviant. Prior to modern conceptions of disability in Britain, the deviation was labeled as “deformity.” This thesis demonstrates various ways in which Blake illustrates deformity, and through this, prefigures the modern sense of disability in his art. I argue that Blake’s representation of deformity in his poetry and drawings is intended to reveal the precariousness of the “normal” human body and inform the reader and viewer that normality is an illusion. The age of the Enlightenment is important in disability history in that its ideology encouraged people to believe in the existence of a perfectly logical world, which in turn made them rationalize and discriminate bodily differences. Blake reacts to the Enlightenment by questioning the belief in the idealized world and deforming the normality that governed his culture and society.

Advisor: Stephen C. Behrendt