Pity and anger in the poetry of William Blake from 'Poetical sketches' to 'Milton'

Edgar, Brian Windsor (1996). Pity and anger in the poetry of William Blake from 'Poetical sketches' to 'Milton'. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000e11c

Abstract

This thesis gives an account of the ideas about pity and anger in Blake's poetry from Poetical Sketches to Milton, placing them in their historical and intellectual contexts. Chapter 1 introduces the main themes, arguing that Blake saw himself as a counter-ideologist, working to change social and individual 'structures of feeling'. It suggests that his ideas were influenced by his class position, by the French Revolution, and by developments in eighteenth-century thinking. Chapter 2 shows that in the early work Blake engages with problems of male identity that will concern him throughout his career and provide another context for his thinking about anger and pity. Chapter 3 deals with the impasse of the late 1780s. The fourth Chapter claims that Songs of Innocence represents Blake's attempt to create a kind of compassion that will lead to and then characterise a redeeýhed society. The fifth Chapter locates The French Revolution in the Burke debate and points out that 'Let the Brothels of Paris be opened' shows important similarities in its treatment of pity to the speeches and articles of the Jacobin leaders. Chapter 6 contests the views of critics who have unproblematically presented anger as a virtue and pity as a vice in Songs of Experience. Chapter 7 suggests that the ideology of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is determined by an economic impossibility that creates a politics of feeling rather than of strategies and institutions. Chapters 8 and 9 discuss the Prophetic Books as analyses of the psychology of revolutionary aspiration and failure. Chapter 10 argues that The Four Zoas depicts the reconstitution of a degraded anger and pity that are nevertheless doomed to social failure except in the 'imaginary' of the final apocalypse, while Chapter 11 contextualises the 'Sciences' of Wrath and Pity in Milton. The final Chapter is a short resume and forward glance.

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