“Introduction” to the Songs of Experience The Infection of Time
Modern criticism of Blake's “Introduction” to the Songs of Experience reveals in miniature the persistent tendency to simplify, in different ways, the complex subjectivity of Romantic speakers. Some readers set apart the speaker from the author in the name of formalism; others subsume the one in the other in the name of authorial intention. (Still others conceive of a poststructuralist subject so dispersed in and by its contexts that for them the problem of author and speaker seems to disappear. I discuss such a conception later in this chapter, excluding it here in order to clarify the issue of subjectivity in relation to Blake's poem.) The former simplification retains the poet as omniscient, ironizing the Bard as a deluded prophet to the extent that he is not omniscient. The latter collapses all distinctions between poet and speaker, assuming either a unitary, systealthoughic intention shared by the poet and the Bard, or a divided, confused intention in which the poet is as deluded as his speaker. (We can understand such simplification as the result of our need to master another's subjectivity; that, however, does not make it any more adequate to such subjectivity than the oversimplifying acts we perform in daily life on others and even ourselves.) Such simplification is not necessarily simple; interpretations on both sides of the “ironic narrator” problem can be subtle and learned. But they tend to be on one or the other side: the
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Publication information: Book title: Romantic Poems, Poets, and Narrators. Contributors: Joseph C. Sitterson Jr. - Author. Publisher: Kent State University Press. Place of publication: Kent, OH. Publication year: 2000. Page number: 12.
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