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Searing apparent surfaces: infernal females in four early works of William Blake
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.
1999 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This study explores the quality of the infernal as a specifically female expression of desire in William Blake's work. The contention is that the infernal constitutes an essential female element of the divine in Blake's early work but is demonized in the late work as an attribute of the Female Will. The devalorization of the infernal in relation to female desire has not previously been addressed by Blake critics. Therefore I initiate a critical dialogue with my mythological study of three female figures in the early work, each of whom displays infernal characteristics.

Although Blake's illuminated books are unique inasmuch as they comprise a composite art with their intricate interplay of verbal and visual texts, most Blake critics focus primarily on the poems. I privilege the designs as a deliberate strategy of overcompensation for this literary bias. My exploration of "the infernal method" described in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell focuses on three particular designs that pictorialize the method's infernal quality in the form of a fiery female. I propose degrees of female desire on an infernal scale (the more restrained the desire, the less infernal the female) which are then examined in readings of The Book of Thel, Visions of the Daughters of Albion, and the color print Hecate. Beginning with Hecate as the most infernal of the three female figures, this study explores her mythological complexities as Goddess of the Limen, of the Dark Moon, and of the Underworld. Using the title page designs of Thel and Visions as points of departure, I demonstrate how the pictorial images work to lay bare the tangle of mythological roots underlying the poetic narratives that follow. Such roots provide perspectives from which to understand Thel's defiance of a system of female subordination to the male that Oothoon (protagonist of Visions) willingly embraces.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International , 1999. , 178 p.
Stockholm studies in English, ISSN 0346-6272 ; 90
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URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-7553ISBN: 9122018565OAI: diva2:198578
Public defence
2000-01-15, G-salen, Arrheniuslaboratorierna, Frescati, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 1999-12-23 Created: 1999-12-23 Last updated: 2012-09-28Bibliographically approved

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