"Now my lot in the heaven is this". A study of William Blake's own acknowledged sources: Shakespeare, Milton, Isaiah, Ezra, Boehme, and Paracelsus
Abstract (Summary)My study was prompted by a hostile reaction to S. Foster Damon' s claim that Blake read the Bhagavad-Gita. I am intimately familiar with that work, intellectually, spiritually, in translation, and in the original Sanskrit. This reaction led me to question the validity of recent Blake criticism. My research concentrated on a verse letter to John Flaxman in which Blake names his most inspirational sources: Milton, Shakespeare, Isaiah, Ezra, Boehme, and Paracelsus. I draw heavily on historians, such as E. P. Thompson, Nigel Smith, and A. L. Morton, and recent critics, such as Robin Aubrey, John Mee, Mark Trevor Smith, and of course David Erdman, to refute what I consider wrong-headed assumptions in Blake criticism. The net effect of my preliminary study validates to a large extent Northrop Frye's, and to a lesser extent, Harold Bloom's, reading of Blake. Still, whether the above critics or others seem to be right or wrong, none takes into account the concept that Blake is not an intellectual, but a preacher. He is proselytizing. Understanding his theological stance is so fundamental to understanding Blake that I remain mystified that scholars have insisted on an aesthetic motive for his work. Aesthetics may be the means, but the end is theology. My study shows how Blake's theology is visionary, sophisticated and cogent and, perhaps more significantly, widely shared, especially among the working classes.
School Location:USA - Massachusetts
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Date of Publication:01/01/1996