Blake’s Erotic Apocalypse: The Androgynous Ideal in ‘Jerusalem’, by Diane Hoeveler

From the Hermaphrodite to the Androgynous: Reintegrating the Male and Female

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Introduction: Sexual Warfare: The Origins of the Battles of the Sexes

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Detail from Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Which is also a marriage of Male and Female – not understood externally, inter-psychically, in the fallen and projected way, but intra-psychically – to overcome the divisions and separations within oneself. Note that the figures here are themselves androgynous.

The imagery of sexual warfare is central to the vision of apocalypse which Blake proclaims as his poetic mission. The political apocalypse of the earlier work, such as The French Revolution, fades as the spiritual gains prominence, for Blake’s vision of the natural world seems to have darkened over the years so that by the time he was writing Jerusalem the only apocalypse he could endorse was one in which the ”sexes must cease and vanish” in the psyche so that humanity can assume its spiritualized “body.” It became clear to Blake that political reform of society could not be effected until an individual and spiritual redemption took place in every heart. To become androgynous, to overcome the flaws inherent in each sex, emerges as the central challenge for all Blake’s characters. 

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Gender and Perception: William Blake and the Fall into Male and Female, by Northrop Frye

The Illusion of Objectivity and the Division of Perceived and Perceiver

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Introduction: Gender and Perception 

There are several accounts of the Fall in Blake but the invariable characteristic of them is Albion’s relapse from active creative energy to passivity. This passivity takes the form of wonder or awe at the world he has created, which in eternity he sees as a woman. The Fall thus begins in Beulah, the divine garden identified with Eden in Genesis. 

Once he takes the fatal step of thinking the object-world independent of him, Albion sinks into a sleep symbolizing the passivity of his mind, and his creation separates and becomes the “female will” or Mother Nature, the remote and inaccessible universe of tantalizing mystery we now see. Love, or the transformation of the objective into the beloved, and art, or the transformation of the objective into the created, are the two activities pursued on this earth to repair the damage of the Fall, and they raise our state to Beulah and Eden respectively. 

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