Are You Experienced? Timothy Morton on William Blake

Cynicism versus Revolution

Timothy Morton’s great series of podcasts (taken from his live lectures at Rice University) explore and unpack the deeper meanings of Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience. As he says, “the trouble for Blake is not what you think, but how you think it. You could be thinking the most hifalutin, noble, moral, thoughts – but the way you think those thoughts could be politically regressive. So the real target of a Blake poem, is you.”

“Songs of Experience are about cynicism; cynicism is about having a twist. Cynicism doesn’t mean completely feeling negatively about things in particular, it means feeling disillusioned, it means thinking – holding the attitude that – I can see through everything.  Everything is transparent to me.  I alone in all the world am able to see it – that, in itself, is the problem. You’re positioning yourself outside of the object that you have objectified – through your seeing.  That is the essence of the cynicism. Objectification. And it’s the problem that we’re all in. It’s the problem of being modern.” (Romanticism 5: Blake podcast).

symbolism_symbolic_jacobs_ladder_william_blake-re8ffa684355a4f63b51aa8067301d4b8_zz7zs_324-DOORS-OF-PERCEPTION (1)Timothy Morton is Professor and Rita Shea Guffey Chair in English at Rice University, America, and a member of the ‘object-oriented’ philosophy movement. His book Ecology without Nature put forward the Blakean argument that “Putting something called Nature on a pedestal and admiring it from afar does for the environment what patriarchy does for the figure of Woman. Far from being something ‘natural’ itself, nature hovers over things like a ghost”. Podcast Romanticism 6: Blake (MP3) is a good place to start getting experienced.


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