william blake "The whole business of Man is the arts, and all things in common."
<ul><li>1757 Born in London (28 November) to James Blake, a hosier, and his wife Catherine Wright Armitage Blake. </li></ul><ul><li>1767 Enrolled in Henry Pars's drawing school. </li></ul><ul><li>1772 Apprenticed to James Basire, 31 Great Queen Street, engraver to the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Society. </li></ul><ul><li>1779 Apprenticeship ends. Becomes journeyman copy engraver. Admitted as student to Royal Academy of Art's Schools of Design. </li></ul><ul><li>1780 Gordon Riots in London (June), in which Blake may have participated. Arrested on suspicion of spying during sketching trip on the River Medway. </li></ul><ul><li>1782 Marries Catherine Boucher (18 August). </li></ul><ul><li>1787 Younger brother Robert dies (February). </li></ul><ul><li>c. 1788 Invents relief etching. Publishes All Religions are One and There is No Natural Religion, first illuminated books. </li></ul><ul><li>1789 Publishes Songs of Innocence and begins The Book of Thel (1789-90). Attends organizational meeting of the New Jerusalem (Swedenborgian) Church (April). </li></ul><ul><li>1790 Publishes The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. </li></ul><ul><li>1791 Writes at least one part of several proposed parts of The French Revolution. Composes and engraves six original designs for Mary Wollstonecraft's Original Stories from Real Life. </li></ul><ul><li>1793 Publishes Visions of the Daughters of Albion, America a Prophecy, and For Children: The Gates of Paradise. Engraves Albion rose. </li></ul><ul><li>1794 Publishes Europe: a Prophecy, Songs of Experience, and The [First] Book of Urizen. </li></ul><ul><li>1795 Publishes The Book of Ahania, The Book of Los, and The Song of Los. Produces 12 large color-printed drawings. Works on 537 water color illustrations to Edward Young's Night Thoughts. </li></ul><ul><li>1797 Begins set of 116 water color illustrations to the poems of Thomas Gray for John Flaxman. Young's Night Thoughts published with 43 plates engraved by Blake after his own designs. </li></ul><ul><li>1800 Moves to Felpham, Sussex, to work for patron William Hayley. </li></ul><ul><li>1801 Produces eight water color illustrations of Milton's Comus for the Rev. Joseph Thomas, the first of several series of Milton illustrations that will later include the Nativity Ode, L'Allegro, Il Penseroso, Paradise Lost, and Paradise Regained. </li></ul><ul><li>1803 Indicted on charges of sedition (October) as a result of a quarrel with a soldier, John Scolfield, whom he had evicted from his garden (August). Returns to London. </li></ul><ul><li>1804 Acquitted of sedition charges (January). Begins work on Milton a Poem and Jerusalem The Emanation of the Giant Albion. </li></ul><ul><li>1805 Begins illustrations for Blair's The Grave, to be published by Robert Cromek. Produces 19 water color illustrations of the Book of Job for Thomas Butts (c. 1805-6). </li></ul><ul><li>1818 Meets John Linnell. Begins sketching "Visionary Heads" for John Varley. </li></ul><ul><li>1826 Publishes 21 engraved Illustrations of the Book of Job. Produces Laocoön (c. 1826). Begins Genesis Manuscript. </li></ul><ul><li>1827 Dies 12 August in his rooms at 3 Fountain Court. </li></ul>
The idea of the idea of the ghost of a flea <ul><li>The title’s funny, right? “The Ghost of a flea.” Do fleas even have ghosts? </li></ul><ul><li>And then: terrifying, grotesque. </li></ul><ul><li>The third thing to note about this picture is that for Blake the ghost of a flea means the idea or principle of a flea. The principle of a flea (so far as we can see it) is bloodthirstiness, the feeding on the life of another, the fury of the parasite. </li></ul><ul><li>When people call Blake a “mystic,” this is part of what they mean: he is interested in the ideas for which such things stand. For him the tiger means an awful elegance; for him the tree means a silent strength. </li></ul><ul><li>Every great mystic goes about with a magnifying glass. He sees every flea as a giant, an ogre. Blake shows the best part of a mystic’s attitude in seeing that the soul of a flea is ten thousand times larger than a flea. </li></ul><ul><li>All primary understanding of the art of Blake really turns on this: that the ghost of a flea is actually more solid than a flea. The flea himself is hazy, compared to the massive actuality of his ghost. This is one of the great ideas in Blake - the idea of ideas. </li></ul>
‘ I must create my own system or be enslaved by another man’s.’ <ul><li>Not interested in strict representational ‘correctness.’ More concerned with bringing out imaginatively what an experience meant to him. </li></ul><ul><li>In this Blake is characteristically Romantic , believing in the centrality of the imagination . He belives an artist must reject the past and find his own way of doing things from within himself. </li></ul><ul><li>Imagination vs. reason, vs. nature. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Vision” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Experienced visions from the age of four </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In Blake’s universe, “Vision” is a term encompassing ordinary "single vision," mere optical reality in sequential time, and higher forms that perceive things prophetically, metaphorically, imaginatively, and eternally. </li></ul></ul>Joseph of Arimethea; he was for Blake an archetypal Christian and English artist. Joseph was a character with whom Blake identified: a heroic, lonely prophet, a spiritual fountainhead. And the image of him is steeped in the art of the past with which Blake connected most closely, namely Michelangelo.
<ul><li>Blake created his own system of mythology, literature, philosophy and art. His systemic creation informs and is informed by the ideals of the Romantic period – it is totally individual , and totally integrates spirituality, politics, literature, sexuality. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>So it’s really confusing! </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Blake’s individual perspective on the universe, The Everlasting Gospel [ie Blake’s own invented theology] was far from simple. “Blake had succeeded in inventing in the course of about ten years as tangled and interdependent a system of theology as the Catholic Church has accumulated in two thousand.” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Characters such as: “The Four Zoas,” “Nobodaddy, ” “Urizen” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>His biographer remarks on Blake’s character: “You might call him a solid maniac or a solid liar; but you could not possibly call him a wavering hysteric or a weak dabbler in doubtful things.” </li></ul>The Bard, a reoccurring Blake figure
<ul><li>T. S. Eliot was not a fan of this invented mythology: </li></ul><ul><li>“ But most through midnight streets I hear </li></ul><ul><li>How the youthful harlot's curse </li></ul><ul><li>Blasts the new-born infant's tear,” </li></ul><ul><li>is the naked vision; but although there was nothing to distract him from sincerity there were, on the other hand, the dangers to which the naked man is exposed. His philosophy, like his visions, like his insight, like his technique, was his own. And accordingly he was inclined to attach more importance to it than an artist should. “ </li></ul>
Blake, the radical <ul><ul><ul><li>This philosophy was politically and socially radical. His idea that every aspect of life should be as integrated and as accessible to the Divine as possible did not jive with his (or our) contemporary political reality. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Terry Eagleton writes: “Politics today is largely a question of management and administration. Blake, by contrast, viewed the political as inseparable from art, ethics, sexuality and the imagination. It was about the emancipation of desire, not its manipulation.” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Desire for Blake was an infinite delight, and his whole project was to rescue it from the repressive regime of priests and kings. His sense of how sexuality can turn pathological through repression is close to Freud's. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>To see the body as it really is, free from illusion and ideology, is to see that its roots run down to eternity -- again, integrating the real, individual and divine. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>"If the doors of perception were cleansed," he claims, "everything would appear to man as it is, infinite." Political states keep power by convincing us of our limitations. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>When reading a Blake poem, the sense of “vertigo” caused by a sly change in perspective is often caused by Blake’s attempt to recreate this “Infinite” perspective, to move between speakers, feelings and pairs of eyes. </li></ul></ul></ul>
the body in Blake <ul><li>The ”body” as a whole with parts that can operate separately from one another; repression; division; sensation. As a conduit for sensation, which is access to the spiritual realm, it is particularly important. </li></ul><ul><li>Much of Blake’s imagined Gospel had to do with the division of the soul and body into different parts, and what happened when they were reunited in various configurations </li></ul><ul><ul><li>For example, in “Beulah,” or paradise, men are reunited with their female “emanations,” or feminine spirits, and made whole. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Bodies can enable intimate connection , yet they can also indicate the imprisonment of the human in the restriction and isolation of the individual body. </li></ul><ul><li>Kristen Connolly argues that Blake ultimately comes to terms with embodiment through the Romantic notion of sympathy: </li></ul><ul><li>"The physical body, though it binds us in muscles and fibres, also plays an important part in making sympathy possible”. Therefore, by better understanding the isolation and limitations of our own bodies, we paradoxically come to a greater sense of sympathy for other humans, thereby strengthening our sense of community and the interconnectedness of human experience. </li></ul>
The “body of the text” <ul><li>Blake’s preoccupation with integration extended to his texts themselves. His style of illuminated, hand-colored text means we can’t separate his illustrations from text, or our imaginations of his written worlds from the physical reality of how he reproduced them. </li></ul><ul><li>Blake as poetic anatomist cutting into the metal with his engraving tools like a physician would cut into a body to reveal secrets within. </li></ul><ul><li>Blake, inspired by a vision of his brother, invented a from of etching called “relief etching”: unlike other methods of printing texts and designs available at the end of the eighteenth century, it did not separate invention from production. The need to keep these two activities united became one of Blake’s central tenets as an artist. </li></ul>
<ul><li>In Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, the engravings and verses are inextricably intertwined, part of a singular vision where neither word nor image is privileged over the other. </li></ul>
Reading Songs of Innocence And Experience <ul><li>Innocence and Experience are contrary states, ways of seeing and dwelling in the world. </li></ul><ul><li>But poems from either category are mixed in together, and qualities of both appear in each poem. </li></ul><ul><li>Individuals in Innocence are sustained by confidence in the redemptive presence of the divine, perceived as both sympathetically human (often like a loving parent) and somehow nearby. </li></ul><ul><li>Those in Experience are profoundly conscious of the limitations of fallen life and its sorrows. </li></ul><ul><li>Mix forms: critics cannot agree if their relationship to children’s songs is ironic or sincere, if the Songs of Innocence are truly innocent or cynical commentary. </li></ul>
blake and romanticism <ul><li>Blake’s relationship to Romanticism is all mixed up as well: </li></ul><ul><li>G.K. Chesterton sums it up in his biography of Blake: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ It is common to connect Blake and Wordsworth because of their ballads about babies and sheep. They were utterly opposite. If Wordsworth was the Poet of Nature, Blake was specially the Poet of Anti Nature.” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Blake: “I see in Wordsworth the natural man rising up against the spiritual man continually. Natural objects always did, and now do, weaken, deaden and obliterate imagination in men. Wordsworth must know that what he writes valuable is not to be found in Nature. </li></ul><ul><li>On the other hand, Wordsworth had something altogether more positive to say about Blake: </li></ul><ul><li>“ There was no doubt that this poor man was mad, but there is something in the madness of this man which interests me more than the sanity of Lord Byron and Walter Scott.” </li></ul>
<ul><ul><ul><li>Reading Blake today: </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>- Hypertext enables closer relation to visual aspects of the text </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Political overtones: “Blake himself was tried for sedition and acquitted, having allegedly cried in public: "Damn the king and his country!" Today whole sectors of the labour movement bow the knee to monarchy, or at least tolerate it as a minor irritant. The history of labour from Blake to Brown is, among other things, how dissent became domesticated.” from Terry Eagleton </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Postcolonial: While engraving John Gabriel Stedman’s designs for his Narrative, of a Five Years’ Expedition, Against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam (1796), a firsthand account of a slave rebellion, Blake became a close friend of the author. Though not an abolitionist, Stedman deplored the inhuman conditions to which Africans were subjected on sugar and tobacco plantations. His graphic descriptions and depictions of the torture inflicted by the slave owners offended some contemporary readers, but critics praised the quality of the illustrations. </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Theotormon: Theotormon suggests "god-tormented"; the autobiographical narrative of a mercenary who fought half-heartedly to suppress a slave revolt may have inspired his character in Visions of the Daughters of Albion. In later books Theotormon is grouped with Rintrah, Palamabron, and Bromion. </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
Introduction to Songs of Innocence: What is the child's role in relation to the piper? What does the child want the piper to do? Might the line "I stain'd the water clear" be read in two different ways? If so, how? How has the voice of the speaker changed in the Introduction to Songs of Experience? What is the difference between the “piper” and the “Bard”? How is Earth represented in this introduction, in contrast to that of Songs of Innocence? The Chimney Sweeper What is the child-speaker's relationship to little Tom Dacre? What does Tom's dream mean? What is the coffin, in your opinion? What is the function of the dream in the poem? What role does the body play in this poem—how do the images of the boys’ physical reality affect our emotional response to the poem? How does their physical reality relate to their spiritual state? The Chimney Sweeper from Songs of Experience Compare the poem to its Innocence precursor. Again, what enables the child to interpret his situation so differently? Is it significant that the child uses the present tense in the last stanza - "because I am happy, & dance and sing…"? What is the nature of his dancing and singing? What is the logic of the child's statement that his parents, their conception of God, and that God's Priest and King "make up a heaven of our misery"? How can they all "make up" a heaven from the existence of misery?