Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Critical studies of William Blake have emphasized the integrity of his major prophecies and their commitment to a "grammar of the imagination" which reconciles differences in favour of the identity of the "human form divine." This thesis throws these emphases into question in two ways. First, a close examination of Blake's accounts of life in "Eden" suggests that he could view perfection as a conflictual condition which ceaselessly undoes itself, creatively deferring rather than seeking the stability of final form. This unconventional modelling of the shape of reality emerges as a logical consequence of Blake's revisionary conception of cosmic history, which views the primordial whole prior to creation as a site of four living energies or "Zoas" engaged in a process he calls "mutual interchange." Because this whole is not hierarchical, the fall is read not as a disruption of an original order but as an attempt to introduce hierarchy and containment into a fundamentally non-hierarchic context.;But hierarchical structures underwrite a significant element of the prophecies themselves, despite the fact that they condemn these structures as the signature of fallen consciousness. The highly purposive nature of the prophetic text is the most palpable expression of the poet's visionary will-to-order. That this emphasis on containment is made at the same time that the origin is celebrated for its resistance to enclosure produces in the case of Jerusalem what I call the "cleft text." The second task of the thesis is to track the articulation of this cleft or self-difference as it complicates Blake's language. A central strategy of Blake's purposiveness is to separate what has been mixed, a culling more often expressed in binary oppositions of an essential inside and an extraneous outside. But at significant points the stability of these oppositions, and thus the coherence that they promise, is put into doubt by the self-unravelling nature of Blake's figures. This deconstructive indeterminacy discloses an underlying complicity between terms that are arranged as origin and derivation, inside and outside, and suggests instead that each exists as the other's possibility in a circulation of mutual interchange that textually mirrors Blake's primordial whole.



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