The Daimonic Human in William Blake

Todd Dearing

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


This paper examines William Blake’s daimonic conception of the human being. My aim is to clearly present the concept of the daimon within Blake’s oeuvre as a Romantic solution to the perceived narrowness of the Enlightenment model of the human. I will first define the traditional concept of the daimon and briefly outline its genealogy from classical antiquity, continuing through Christianity to eighteenth-century ideas of genius, to its eventual flowering among the Romantics. I will then present Blake’s concept of the daimonic human and discuss this in greater detail, including illustrative commentary drawn from two of Blake’s paintings.
The daimonic literary tradition spans from antiquity to the present day, and more recently includes studies on specific Romantics by scholars such as Robert Stock, Angus Nicholls, Gregory Leadbetter, and Charles Patterson, although discussion of Blake remains considerably less than that of other Romantics. While critical literature on Blake’s poetry and art is often peppered with various forms of the descriptor daimonic, there has been no thorough study, to my knowledge, on the importance of the daimon within Blake’s work. This paper is derived from my doctorate thesis, which addresses the absence of study of the daimon in Blake, shows how Blake participates in the broader daimonic tradition, and discusses the literary-humanistic implications of Blake’s daimonic human.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017
EventNatures and Spaces of Enlightenment: The David Nichol Smith Seminar in Eighteenth-Century Studies XVI - Griffith University (South Bank) and University of Queensland (St Lucia), Brisbane, Australia
Duration: 13 Dec 201715 Dec 2017


ConferenceNatures and Spaces of Enlightenment
Internet address


  • William Blake
  • Daimon
  • Human
  • Literature
  • Genius


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