Joe Viscomi

Phone:   (919) 962-8764
Office:   Greenlaw 504
Curriculum Vitae:   File cv.docx


The James G. Kenan Distinguished Professor of English


Ph. D., Columbia University, 1980
M.Phil., Columbia University, 1978
M.A., Columbia University, 1974
Ph.B., Monteith College, Wayne State University, 1973 





I am co-editor/creator with Robert Essick and Morris Eaves of The William Blake Archive, a hypermedia digital database of Blake's poetry and art based on over 7000 high-resolution images drawn from Blake’s illuminated books, paintings, drawings, manuscripts, and engravings. The site is made possible by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with the University of Rochester, the continuing support of the Library of Congress and private foundations, and the cooperation of the international array of libraries and museums. Past support includes the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia, the Getty Grant Program, the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, the Preservation and Access Division of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Sun Microsystems, and Inso Corporation. Its main offices are in UNC’s Department of English and Comparative Literature, where eight or more graduate students work as editorial assistants. 


The structure and rationale of the Archive grew out of the editors’ earlier projects for the Blake Trust (vols. 3 and 5 of William Blake's Illuminated Books, Tate Gallery/Princeton U. P, 1993) and my Blake and the Idea of the Book (Princeton UP, 1993). The editors have designed the Archive for use by a broad audience of scholars and students in classrooms and museums. It was the first digital scholarly edition to receive the Modern Language Association’s (MLA) Prize for a Distinguished Scholarly Edition (2003) and to receive the Approved Edition seal from the MLA Committee on Scholarly Editions (2005). These awards legitimized our methodology and the use of computers in the editing of texts and images and paved the way for “humanities computing” to become “digital humanities” (2006). In 2006, I received the Knowledge Trust Exploration Award for my work on the Blake Archive. In 2010, the editors were awarded a three-year National Endowment for the Humanities Collaborative Research Grant, and in 2011 received a MERLOT [Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching] Award.


The Blake Archive is possibly the most documented of all digital humanities projects. According to Saree Makdisi, “the online Blake Archive . . . has completely transformed the way Blake is now read, studied, and taught” (17).[1] According to Kate Hayles, “It is no exaggeration to say that The William Blake Archive establishes the gold standard for literary Web sites” [263-64].[2] According to Susan Schreibman: “The archive’s adherence to strict digitization standards, to capturing the fidelity of the original artifacts, and to creating a vocabulary that would allow unprecedented access to the complexity of the rich visual vocabulary that Blake employed has set the gold standard for image-based electronic editions [par. 21].[3] These are among the many comments made by reviewers and users of the Archive—and all before our transformative redesign launched in December 2016. Since then, Andrew Webster has reported: “First created and conceived over 20 years ago, the William Blake Archive set a standard for the digital humanities.  It’s now broken another mold….  The combination of text and illustration on a digital page never looked so polished and beautiful as it does on the newly refurbished website….”[4]


In addition to working on the Blake Archive, I continue to work on a book-length study of Blake’s masterworks, the twelve large monoprints of 1795 and their 29 extant impressions, a study which includes recreating some of the prints in facsimile. I have recently completed essays on Mrs. Blake and Frederick Tatham and their roles in producing posthumous prints and disseminating Blake’s effects after his death. For my seminars in Revolutions in Romantic Art and Literature, I continue also to examine the development of watercolor painting, print technology, and lyrical poetry in the Romantic period, focusing on works by major and minor figures, including Wordsworth, Coleridge, Turner, Constable, A. and J. R. Cozens, and William Gilpin.  


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