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

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Abstract

Merlin and Reuben are two minor characters in William Blake's Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion (1804-c. 1820) 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. Taking these two characters of Blake's as a Romantic conceptualisation of limited 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 and Alan Richardson's recent work on physiology and the Romantic imagination. The implications of Blake's concept of embodied imagination will be discussed in this context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)685-706
Number of pages22
JournalEnglish Studies
Volume101
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Keywords

  • Embodiment
  • Imagination
  • William Blake
  • Romanticism
  • Reason
  • Creativity

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