Songs of Experience - Psychoanalysis

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A Little Boy Lost (Experience) - Psychoanalysis

  • Priest is the mediator between Father and Son. Fathers are victims as well as victimizers.
  • There are two confrontations. 1st is between Father and Son. 2nd is between Father and Priest
  • Son confronts Father with narcissism of all objects love, 'Nought loves another as itself'.
  • The son admits he cannot love his Father with the self-effacing respect society demands
  • At the same time doubt is casts on the depth of the Father's love for the son
  • The speaker confronts the Father with the fact that his affection is not freely given but is the result of dependency on the family situation
  • What passes for love is dependence and fear
  • 'Our most holy mystery' - The boy has also uncovered the mystery of organized religion and is now bound in his 'iron chain'.
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A Little Girl Lost (Experience) - Psychoanalysis

  • Formation of the superego in female and oepidal relationship between Father and Daughter
  • 'Garden bright' where light 'had just removed the curtains of night'. = The awakening of puberty of the Girl
  • Nature is passion
  • Blake has set it in the 'Gold' age which is the age of innocence
  • Thinking from a Freudian perspective it could be seen that Blake chose to have a lone Father in the poem as it gives him the opportunity to express the repressed sexual components of the father-daughter bond.
  • Engaging in sexual activity?
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Oedipus Complex and Psychoanalysis in Blake

  • Freud meant the Oedipus complex to be understood as a complicated series of psychic relationships and events by means of which a person learns how to become a member of society.
  • The songs of experience deal implicitly with family romance.
  • Blake's interpretation was slightly different to Freud's. For Freud to oedipal struggle was the child's struggle
  • The sexual union of fathers and daughters in Blake's major prophecies is a matter of mutual passion. He interpreted it as a problem for both parent and child. (Or originally problem of parent who then communicates it to the child)
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Infant Sorrow (Experience) - Psychoanalysis

  • For both Freud and Blake, the newborn evokes potential feelings of terror and of beauty
  • Constrasts with 'Infant Joy'
  • 'Striving against my swaddling bands'. - Freud concluded that the child is born with innate aggressive/destructive instincts.
  • According to Blake, the newborn in Infant Sorrow, is a 'fiend' only because his parents restrain his energy in swaddling bands, his struggling and striving is not negative.
  • It is because he is 'bound' that he sulks upon his mother's breast. - All the potential energy of infancy is driven into the mirror relationship of mother and infant in nursing situation.
  • In innocence the parents are permitters rather than restrainers unlike here. However it is not a world devoid of sorrow.
  • Parents remember the restriction 'Such were the joys/ when we all girls and boys'.
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Repression (Psychoanalysis) in Blake

  • Parental figures in the form of father, nurse etc. become the restrainers of youthful sexuality and individuation.
  • In Nurse's Song (Experience) - the Nurse projects her sexual frustration and fear onto the children whom she charges to come home for 'your spring and your day are wasted in play/ And your winter and night in disguise'.
  • Part of becoming an dult is detatching from family
  • Both Blake and Freud say parental love is cruel, but the parent is not aware of this.
  • The Nurse represses this which is why she projects things on to the children, she thinks back to her youth in a bitter way
  • Spring is youth and winter is age
  • Constant cycle of repression
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Freud and Psychoanalysis

The Uncanny

  • Subject of uncanny belongs to 'all that is terrible', what is 'fearful'. Something familiar
  • That class of terrifying that leads back to something long known to us, once familiar
  • Uncertainty can be whether the author is taking us into the real world or into a purely fantastic one of his own creation. Could be a wish not a fear

Interpretation of Dreams

  • They are products of our own mental activity and wish fulfillments of the unconscious
  • Schleiermacher: 'Dreams replace thoughs by hallucinations. Dreams construct a situation out of these images that represent an event that is actually occuring. When we dream we turn our mind away from the external world'.


  • Person's development is determined by forgotten events in early childhood
  • Thoughts or memories can be repressed and lie in the unconscious
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William Blake

  • Claimed to have seen visions
  • Claimed to see 'a tree full of Angels'
  • Thrashed by his Father for 'telling a lie'
  • Parents quite supportive - Particularly Mother = 'his work scattered her chambers' - Oedipus complex?
  • Believed he was personally instructed and encouraged by Archangels to create artistic work
  • Wordsworth: 'No doubt that this man was mad'.
  • WC Dandy: 'Blake was a visionary and thought his fancies real - he was mad'.
  • Unconscious was keeping visions up for comfort? Something he actually saw in his dreams?
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