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Blake's Poetry: Spectral Visions
Pages: 1 - 196
Swansea University Author: Steven Vine
The book examines Blake as a poet of contradiction and contrariety. It considers the remorseless contest between Los, Blake’s visionary prophet, and the unvisionary ‘Spectre’ and its fellows. In the confrontation between Los and his spectral antagonists, Blake reveals the energies and agonies of poe...
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The book examines Blake as a poet of contradiction and contrariety. It considers the remorseless contest between Los, Blake’s visionary prophet, and the unvisionary ‘Spectre’ and its fellows. In the confrontation between Los and his spectral antagonists, Blake reveals the energies and agonies of poetic labour. Chapter 1 begins with an analysis of a number of Blake’s major interpreters, including Northrop Frye, David Erdman and Harold Bloom, and argues that in presenting an ‘idealist’ view of Blake, critics often overlook the traumatic logic of poetic creation in his troubled narratives. Chapter 2 examines Blake's aesthetic of ‘vision’ through a reading of his revolutionary prophecies of the 1790s; the chapter considers his critique of Edmund Burke’s theory of the sublime in 'On the Sublime and the Beautiful '(1757), and uses the revolutionary poems to explore the paradoxes which bedevil prophecy’s attempts to transform history into vision. Chapter 3 focuses on the ambiguities of poetic power, and discovers spectral ironies in a series of short texts from Blake’s Notebook and letters. Chapter 4 examines the catastrophic logic of poetic creation in 'The First Book of Urizen' and the Lambeth prophecies; the chapter uses Kant’s description of the sublime, Hegel’s dialectic of master and slave, and Freud’s account of the vicissitudes of repression to explore the divided status of the Lambeth texts as agonised theodicies and literary parodies. Chapter 5 explores the ambivalent energies of 'The Four Zoas', the excesses of its joys and griefs; the chapter considers the catastrophic and carnivalesque possibilities of the veil, sexuality and apocalypse in the poem, and traces these figures through the poem’s intellectual battleground. Chapter 6 considers the exploration of ‘annihilation’ in 'Milton', and shows how Blake’s brief epic strives to discover an apocalyptic, redemptive rhythm within the serial disasters of history. Chapter 7 develops this reading by examining the language of 'Jerusalem', and the book ends by considering the ambiguous nature of the poem’s apocalyptic language, arguing that 'Jerusalem'’s apocalypse mobilises visionary ‘Possibility’ at the same time as it courts the dangers of dissolution in the ‘Chaos of the Spectre’.
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences