Embracing the divine : the life of spirit in William Blake's Songs of innocence, Songs of experience, and The marriage of heaven and hell /

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Musante, Robert
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Middle Tennessee State University
In this dissertation I argue that imaginative spirituality is a continuous power within individuals, and the power appears in energetic, contrary states of being, despite undeniable entities of abstract reason---orthodox religion, government, science---that function remorselessly to subdue, categorize, and oppress individuals' divine lives. My argument embodies a formalist approach in which I explain that Blake's text and art demonstrate meaningful combinations of divine and human worlds. Blake's emphases in poem and design focus unwaveringly on people's spiritual identities which are not located in otherworldly realms; they are found within people's bodies and souls. In his Songs of Innocence, children manifest wondrous spiritual innocence, but their collective spirit becomes trapped by social structures that are manifestations of the abuse of reason. The immorality resulting from such entrapment surfaces subtly yet strongly in several of the poems from this volume. In Songs of Experience, children maintain a spiritual presence, but their outlooks become tinged irreversibly with bitterness because of their knowledge of and place in threatening social environs. Blake shows us a fierce world of energetic force and reason that is inescapable but increasingly essential. This study attempts to reconstruct the spiritual odyssey of Blake's characters thus defined, demonstrating origins of spiritual liveliness and restriction in the poems and visual engravings. The manifestations of Blake's contraries are intended to direct readers to new knowledge based upon the confluence of human joy and pain that underlies existence.
In the second half of the dissertation, I examine the spiritual powers of the primal contraries, energy and imagination in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell; additionally, my study illuminates Blake's conviction in the need for revolution in the human world. The Marriage shows a spiritual plurality---comprised of a series of unique individualities---of contrary life, an existence displaying exotic, oppositional power along a continuum in Blake's hellish regions. The exuberance of Blake's devil-speaker and the presence of abstract origins (and forces) of religion, science, and politics will identify his intentions to reveal hypocrisy and truth. The advancements of spirituality and morality are forged in the inextricable relationship between art and language, and Blake encourages an energetic apocalypse by engaging his audience in the spiritual displays of his artistic media.
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