Sordid Images: The Poetry of Masculine Desire

By S. H. Clark | Go to book overview

5

BLAKE AND FEMALE REASON

Considerable enthusiasm for Blake’s work has regularly been shown in more broadly based feminist studies. In Susan Griffin’s Pornography and Silence (1981:11), he is hailed as an apostle of eros (despite the plentiful denunciations of the body and maternal fecundity in the later work), and in Gilbert and Gubar’s The Madwoman in the Attic (1979:200), he is identified with a utopian refusal of the existing patriarchal canon (though however far Blake has revised Milton, it is difficult to see him as representing an alternative tradition). The more specialist studies, however, have returned a somewhat dispirited verdict. The problems lie in several areas. The wide variety of creation myths reworked by Blake almost invariably identify the origin of the sexes with fall and division (in the Book of Urizen, ‘Eternity shudder’d when they saw,/Man begetting his likeness/On his own divided image’ (6:16-17, E78)). Second, there is a repeated demand for a fundamental subordination from the female, simultaneously presented as an innate quality and a predestined role to be achieved. Virtually any passage on Beulah will bear out this restorative, supplicatory role, but it can also be vividly seen in the response of self-recrimination both in Ololon’s encounter with Milton (Milton 41:29-42; 6, E141-2), and England arising on Albion’s bosom (Jerusalem 95:22-4, E250)). Third, we are assured of the ultimate dispensability of all feminine qualities: ‘In Eternity Woman is the Emanation of Man she has no Will of her own There is no such thing in Eternity as a Female Will’ (Vision of the Last Judgement E552). This one-sided eradication is perhaps most powerfully dramatised in Enitharmon’s ‘great terror’ in Jerusalem (92:13, E250) when Los instructs her that ‘sexes must vanish and cease’ while reassuring his sons ‘We shall not Die’ (93:19, E251).

-138-

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Sordid Images: The Poetry of Masculine Desire
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vi
  • Note on Texts vii
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - All This the World Well Knows 35
  • 3 - 'Something Genrous in Meer Lust'? 75
  • 4 - Let Blood and Body Bear the Fault 108
  • 5 - Blake and Female Reason 138
  • 6 - Testing the Razor 188
  • 7 - Get Out as Early as You Can 220
  • Bibliography 258
  • Index 280
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