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Title: Giant forms : reading bodies in William Blake's Jerusalem
Author: Connolly, T. J.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 1999
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Giant forms: reading bodies in William Blake's Jerusalem examines images of the human body in Blake's designs and verse, focusing on his final prophecy. Julia Kristeva's theories of poetic language and abjection clarify the implications of Blake's body imagery for human and textual identity. Illuminated printing, and Blake's non-linear poetic style, nullify reading conventions. Allusions to engraving imply a text which reflects itself and its creation. Peopled by strange bodies in work and picture, the book becomes a strange body. Blake's graphic figures are compared to those in eighteenth-century anatomy books, with particular reference to William Cowper and William Hunter. The art theory of Reynolds, Hogarth and Winckelmann contextualizes Blake's contribution to controversies over representation, and pain in art, while psychological and physiological theories of sympathy (Burke, Smith, Whytt) elucidate the reactions Blake sought for his works. Narratives of Urizen's and Reuben's embodiment (in The First Book of Urizen and Jerusalem) exemplify recurring depictions of shrinking sense organs, and disturbingly transformed births, including miscarriages. Emphasis on process recalls metamorphosis, but the new, uncanny form is the human body. Emanations and spectres dramatize the multiplicity inherent in the Blakean identity, rooted in Locke's and Hume's questioning of personal identity. Psychic components split off and become independent personifications. They are compared to Wisdom and the Devil as aspects of God, another manifold being. Unlike the emanation of Son and Spirit from God the Father, these intellectual births are depicted viscerally. Their separations are bizarre variations on birth and fantasies of male mothering which reflect on other creative processes. Emanations and spectres help, hinder, and even become creative productions; images of light and obstruction evoke Newton's experiments. Sons and daughters commit human sacrifice in a misguided attempt to transcend bodily borders. Dividing and commingling characters parallel the linguistic workings of Blake's poetry. Blake's eternal human form divine allows unity and diversity to coexist. The imaginings of Locke, Berkeley, Swedenborg and St. Teresa on the eternal body, inspire an original ideal emphasizing transparency and interpenetrability of bodies. Ideas are wondrously embodied in conversational and sexual 'intercourse'. Despite triumph over the dualism of one and many, flesh and spirit, Blake's eternity relies on subsumption of the female.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available