William Blake's Guided Development of the Psyche: Augmenting Readerly Perception

UNCA Author/Contributor (non-UNCA co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Noah Wurth (Creator)
University of North Carolina Asheville (UNCA )
Web Site: http://library.unca.edu/
Peg Downes

Abstract: Presented in William Blake’s body of poetry and visual art is a peculiar conceptualization of the structure of the human psyche. It is a fourfold system of interrelated perceptive faculties which he named the Four Zoas, and they encompass and correspond to the imagination, the body, reason, and emotions. It is within a complexly individuated interplay of these four fundamental capacities where a human being can find a deeper sense of their own grounding within the cosmic order. In other words, a human being can only realize their highest potential if they come to a place of conscious awareness of how to best utilize their own perceptive abilities. I posit in this thesis that Blake’s oeuvre possesses a cleverly built-in guide to honing one’s own Zoas, allowing the reader to encounter material explicitly designed to challenge their own imaginative, bodily, intellectual, and emotional assumptions.I tether my understanding of the individuated process of perceptual-refinement to Jungian psychoanalytical concepts, strains of religious studies (pertaining to spiritual art and codification of the ineffable), and to historically pertinent notions of the material sublime. The texts I interrogate as being the most generative for my argument are the Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1794) and his swansong, the epic poem Jerusalem (1820). In the course of my argument, I enter into conversation with both seminal Blake scholarship (through critics like Northrop Frye and S. Foster Damon) and with more recent, less monolithic interpretations of his work (as represented by Mark Ryan and Jonathan Kerr, among others). The chief goal of this thesis is to substantiate the claim that Blake’s augmentation of readerly perception does not simply end on the page – while the expanded awareness certainly helps one parse his poetry, it more importantly helps one interact more meaningfully with their particular lived experience.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2019
William Blake, Poetry, Visual Art, Human Psyche, Four Zoas, Jungian Psychoanalytical Concepts, Songs of Innocense and of Experience (1794), Jerusalem (1820)

Email this document to