Finding Infinite Imagination within the Clay Man: Merlin and Reuben in Blake’s Jerusalem

Todd Dearing

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Merlin and Reuben are two minor characters in William Blake’s Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion upon which little has been written. Merlin represents the immortal imagination, reiterating the Welsh wizard of Arthurian mythology as a Romantic figure. Reuben, eldest son of Jacob and Leah from the Book of Genesis, is to Blake the clay man, the human as matter, imbibed with instinct and urge yet lacking higher cognitive capacity. These two archetypal characters appear together in plates 30-32 of Jerusalem, presenting an allegory for the relationship between imagination and the body from Blake’s perspective.
Taking these two characters of Blake’s as a Romantic conceptualisation of embodied imagination, I ask the question: How do Merlin and Reuben contribute to Blake’s concept of embodiment? The aim is to clarify this mythopoetic instance of Romantic embodiment and then to examine its contemporary relevance by considering Richard C. Sha’s recent work on physiology and the Romantic imagination. How exactly Blake relates imagination to embodiment will be answered within this context.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventEmbodying Romanticism: Romantic Studies Association of Australasia 2019 Conference - University of New South Wales, Canberra, Australia
Duration: 21 Nov 201923 Nov 2019
Conference number: 5th


ConferenceEmbodying Romanticism
OtherThe conference theme is ‘Embodying Romanticism’, and we invite proposals for 20-minute papers on any aspects of this theme. Proposals may be for individual papers or for panels of 3-4 papers. More details can be found under the call for papers. Details about travel, accommodation, and the conference program will be added to this site as the conference draws closer.
Internet address


  • William Blake
  • Imagination
  • Embodiment
  • Cognitive literary studies
  • Romanticism
  • Literature
  • Physiology
  • Matter
  • Reason
  • Creativity


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