William Blake Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion Criticism - Essay

Karl Kiralis (essay date June 1956)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Kiralis, Karl. “The Theme and Structure of William Blake's Jerusalem.ELH 23 (June 1956): 127-43.

[In the following essay, Kiralis disagrees with the contention of most critics that Jerusalem has no coherent theme or structure and claims that Blake explains both within the work itself.]

Though Jerusalem is generally considered to be one of the most enigmatic if not chaotic works produced by a major figure in English literature, actually William Blake explains its theme and structure within the work itself. The very nature of the structure, one of interfolded growth as described on plate 98, seems to have caused critics to shy away from...

(The entire section is 6725 words.)

W. H. Stevenson (essay date 1959)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Stevenson, W. H. “Blake's Jerusalem.Essays in Criticism 9 (1959): 254-64.

[In the following essay, Stevenson explores the nature of Jerusalem in order to formulate a basic understanding of the work.]

Jerusalem is a tantalising work—like a money-box with no key. It promises much, but it has always proved difficult to get into. This article is not to be a new attempt to ‘explain’ Jerusalem so much as an attempt to find out what sort of a work it is. Blake seems to encourage his critics to venture into all sorts of other departments of learning, which would be a good thing, if it did not make them forget their own. I have...

(The entire section is 3881 words.)

E. J. Rose (essay date autumn 1965)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Rose, E. J. “The Symbolism of the Opened Center and Poetic Theory in Blake's Jerusalem.SEL: Studies in English Literature 5, no. 4 (autumn 1965): 587-606.

[In the following essay, Rose examines how Blake handles the concept of time in Jerusalem and how this helps explain the context of the work.]

Early in The Four Zoas, Blake describes metaphorically the way in which eternal time becomes historical time and, conversely, the way in which historical time becomes eternal. It is an especially important metaphor in Blake's work because it explains a great deal about the symbolic context of Jerusalem. It explains also his conception...

(The entire section is 6969 words.)

Harold Bloom (essay date fall 1970)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Bloom, Harold. “Blake's Jerusalem: The Bard of Sensibility and the Form of Prophecy.” Eighteenth-Century Studies 4, no. 1 (fall 1970): 6-20.

[In the following essay, Bloom discusses the similarities between Jerusalem and the book of Ezekiel and the perspectives of Blake and Ezekiel as writers.]

… also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man.

—Ezekiel 1: 5

“The midst thereof” refers to “a fire infolding itself,” in the Hebrew literally “a fire taking hold of...

(The entire section is 6008 words.)

Anne K. Mellor (essay date summer 1971)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Mellor, Anne K. “The Human Form Divine and the Structure of Blake's Jerusalem.SEL: Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 11, no. 3 (summer 1971): 595-620.

[In the following essay, Mellor analyzes how Blake's struggle with the concept of the potentially divine living within the finite is expressed in Jerusalem.]

Blake always believed that man is, at least potentially, infinite and divine; in 1788, he concluded There is No Natural Religion with a statement he never retracted: “Therefore God becomes as we are, that we may be as he is” (E-B.2).1 But Blake also recognized that man has fallen or can fall into finite forms;...

(The entire section is 6600 words.)

Roger R. Easson (essay date 1973)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Easson, Roger R. “William Blake and His Reader in Jerusalem.” In Blake's Sublime Allegory, edited by Stuart Curran and Joseph Anthony Wittreich, Jr., pp. 309-27. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1973.

[In the following essay, Easson examines Blake's understanding of the reader-writer relationship and his invitation in Jerusalem to readers to be participants in the creative process.]

Repeatedly, in his correspondence, in his marginalia, and in his poetry, William Blake expresses an abiding concern with his audience; and that concern becomes more evident as Blake's disenchantment with his audience—especially with his patrons—becomes...

(The entire section is 8807 words.)

Randel Helms (essay date spring 1974)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Helms, Randel. “Ezekiel and Blake's Jerusalem.Studies in Romanticism 13, no. 2 (spring 1974): 127-40.

[In the following essay, Helms considers Blake's use of the book of Ezekiel as a source for the narrative and themes in Jerusalem.]

The best way to begin a study of the relationship between Ezekiel and Jerusalem is with Harold Bloom's perception that the “continuity” of Blake's poem is “strikingly like the organization of the book of Ezekiel.1 I take up Professor Bloom's suggestion gratefully, but with a sense that there is more to that relationship than even he realizes.2 Truculent visionary that...

(The entire section is 5810 words.)

E. B. Murray (essay date 1974)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Murray, E. B. “Jerusalem Reversed.” Blake Studies 7, no. 1 (1974): 11-25.

[In the following essay, Murray suggests that one method of understanding Blake's Jerusalem is to analyze the concepts and characters of the work as distorted mirror images of one another.]

We often need the assurances we sometimes get about the admirable clarity and order of Blake's greatest poem. Not only can the poem seem a maze to us as we enter into it, but commentators we successively turn to for directions about the best route through it may lead us instead into the byways of their own outside readings and imposed insights. We may be charmed into accepting their...

(The entire section is 6406 words.)

Mollyanne Marks (essay date 1974)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Marks, Mollyanne. “Self-Sacrifice: Theme and Image in Jerusalem.Blake Studies 7, no. 1 (1974): 27-50.

[In the following essay, Marks considers the ideology of self-sacrifice and how it reveals itself in Blake's Jerusalem.]

Jerusalem represents a movement away from the more richly embroidered universe of Blake's earlier poetry to a starker myth, in which a few of Blake's giant forms are assimilated to figures, events, and concepts of Judaeo-Christian tradition. The elaborate structure of Jerusalem serves essentially to redefine the language of that tradition, and in particular the concept of self-sacrifice that to Blake was the meaning...

(The entire section is 9749 words.)

Irene H. Chayes (essay date 1974)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Chayes, Irene H. “The Marginal Design on Jerusalem 12.” Blake Studies 7, no. 1 (1974): 51-76.

[In the following essay, Chayes analyzes the designs in the margins of Jerusalem as a way of understanding themes and structure in the work.]

Among the many lively, varied, and unjustly neglected minor designs in Jerusalem, those that occupy the vertical margins on a number of plates make up a distinct and consistent group. Typically, they form unified sequences of images, usually human figures, which may be related to similar designs elsewhere in Jerusalem, or by allusive borrowings may recall Blake's illuminated books from much earlier...

(The entire section is 12022 words.)

Harold Bloom (essay date 1975)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Bloom, Harold. “Blake's Apocalypse: Jerusalem.” In English Romantic Poets, edited by M. H. Abrams, pp. 98-111. London: Oxford University Press, 1975.

[In the following essay, Bloom provides an overview of Blake's Jerusalem, including a discussion of the poem's themes and structure.]

The Strong Man represents the human sublime. The Beautiful Man represents the human pathetic, which was in the wars of Eden divided into male and female. The Ugly Man represents the human reason. They were originally one man, who was fourfold; he was self-divided, and his real humanity slain on the stems of generation, and the form of the fourth...

(The entire section is 5235 words.)

Jane McClellan (essay date September 1977)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: McClellan, Jane. “Dramatic Movement as a Structuring Device in Blake's Jerusalem.Colby Literary Quarterly 13, no. 3 (September 1977): 195-208.

[In the following essay, McClellan considers the dramatic elements of Jerusalem and Blake's use of time to build toward the climax of a Last Judgment.]

The critical search for a single, clearcut structure in William Blake's Jerusalem has not yet brought to light one pattern that all or even most critics will agree upon. Part of the problem has been defined by Mollyanne Marks, who notes that the majority of structural analyses “detect consistent patterns of development through...

(The entire section is 7168 words.)

David E. Latané, Jr. (essay date summer 1983)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Latané, David, Jr. “The Door into Jerusalem.Romanticism Past and Present 7, no. 2 (summer 1983): 17-26.

[In the following essay, Latané argues that the first plate in Blake's Jerusalem is a critical one for the reader as it helps formulate the context within which to read and interpret the text.]

The Man who does not know The Beginning, never can know the End of Art.

(Blake's annotations to Reynolds.)

According to formula, epic poems begin with invocations, and Blake's Jerusalem is no exception—except in the fact that the reader first confronts not the...

(The entire section is 3311 words.)

Molly Anne Rothenberg (essay date summer 1987)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Rothenberg, Molly Anne. “Blake Reads ‘The Bard’: Contextual Displacement and Conditions of Readability in Jerusalem.SEL: Studies in English Literature 27, no. 3 (summer 1987): 489-502.

[In the following essay, Rothenberg argues that the key to understanding Blake's Jerusalem is to start with the premise that the poem produced itself and is its own context.]

The reader who seeks to unlock Jerusalem must devise a reading strategy to handle the poem's apparent incoherencies. At the outset of the poem, the reader's situation is complicated by assurances that the “origin” of the work guarantees its coherence; the much-quoted...

(The entire section is 5258 words.)

Mark Trevor Smith (essay date 1990)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Smith, Mark Trevor. “Striving with Blake's Systems.” In Blake and His Bibles, edited by David V. Erdman, pp. 157-78. West Cornwall: Locust Hill Press, 1990.

[In the following essay, Smith, in attempting to understand Blake as a writer, analyzes the concept of the system that Blake claimed he must create in Jerusalem and other works.]

“It's equally fatal for the mind to have a system and to have none. It will simply have to decide to combine the two.”1

Foster Damon with his dictionary definitions2 and Northrop Frye with his summarizing symmetries3 reveal tantalizing...

(The entire section is 9246 words.)

Douglas Thorpe (essay date 1991)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Thorpe, Douglas. “Razing Jerusalem: Blake's Word as World.” In A New Earth: The Labor of Language in Pearl, Herbert's Temple, and Blake's Jerusalem, pp. 123-76. Washington, D. C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1991.

[In the following excerpt, Thorpe examines Blake's Jerusalem in terms of physical objects that mankind creates or builds and that are subsequently destroyed.]

What is the body? That shadow of a shadow
of your love, that somehow contains
the entire universe.
A man sleeps heavily,
though something blazes in him like the sun,
like a magnificent fringe sewn up under the hem.


(The entire section is 20384 words.)