William Blake Context

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  • William Blake
    • Made illustrations
      • Religion - heaven/hell
      • Suffering/evil
      • The sublime
      • Trained at Royal Academy
    • Songs of Innocence/ Songs of Experience
      • Experience = represents life in its true form after having experienced the negative reality
      • The two contrary states of the human soul
      • Innocence = lighter and hopeful and observational of the positive aspects of life
      • The Tyger vs The Lamb
      • Innocence anticipates experience
      • Songs of Innocence published first in 1789, experience was never published alone
    • Spiritual Visions
      • Saw visions -> tree of angels, figures at the window of his bedroom
      • Throughout his lifetime
      • Didn't need to take drugs as he already had a heightened perception that others sought through drugs
      • Visionary prophet = saw London as a holy city/ New Jerusalem
      • Buried in a non-conformist burial ground in London
    • Industrial Revolution
      • Early critic of Industrialisation
      • Effects of labour on the body, chimney sweeps, soliders, prostitutes
      • Sees religion tied up with government power and government oppression
    • Christianity
      • Saw Bible as poetic inspiration "sublime of the Bible"
      • Developed own intensely personal version of religion
      • From a dissenting family
      • Had faith in human redemption
      • Songs of Innocence = pastoral/Biblical imagery
      • Songs of Innocence and Experience cover shows Adam and Eve being expelled from the Garden of Eden
      • Particularly interested in the Fall - saw it as being caused by human desire to construct institutions that restrain and constrain people's desires and freedoms
    • Childhood
      • Metres used in poems associated with nursery rhymes
      • His poetry contrasts didactic religious 18thC childrens' verse
      • Blake, like Rousseau and Locke, emphasises childhood innocence and benevolent natural tendencies
      • Opposed what society did to children, e.g. young boys dying as chimney sweeps
      • Believed children began life in heaven and so the closest to God on Earth


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