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The foundations of William Blake’s universe

Watson, Margaret (1972) The foundations of William Blake’s universe. Masters thesis, Durham University.

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Abstract

The writing of William Blake are studied in an attempt to discover his views on various philosophical questions, and to show that underneath the esoteric symbolism and mythology lies a reasonably coherent philosophical system. By dealing with his works in roughly chronological order it is seen which problems concerned him most at each stage of his career. The first chapter discusses Blake’s “Doctrine of Contraries” (derived possibly from his interest in the works of Swedenborg). Whereby he declares the essential duality of things – male and female, body and soul, imagination and reason, and, most important for his earlier works, innocence and experience, the two contrasting states of the human soul. Chapter two examines Blake’s developing views on the nature of God and his relationship with man, involving inevitably the topics of predestination and free will. Although in his early works Blake condemns God the father as the cruel, man-made Urizen, a caricature of the Old Testament’s invisible Jehovah and contrast to the human Jesus, before his death he revered such a deity as the only true God and accepted the total predestination he earlier abhorred in the works of Swedenborg. The third chapter deals with the relationship of man and the universe, noting Blake’s ambivalent view of Nature and the world of material objects. Blake holds that different degrees of vision are attainable by man, and these can be to some extent aligned with different levels of the universe attainable by man in his now fallen state. The nature of the Pall, which was also Creation, and of the Last Judgment, still in man's future, are also discussed. In the final chapter Blake's last important work. The Ghost of Abel, is used to show Blake's philosophical position at the end of his life.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:1972
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:14 Mar 2014 16:47

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