By Jeanne Moskal
For the final 20 years, students who concentrate on the poetry and paintings of William Blake have under pressure the formal and ancient dimensions of his aesthetic theories and practices. Such an emphasis neglects the moral commitments that tell his paintings. basic between those moral commitments is Blake’s passionate advocacy of forgiveness among people as a way to unravel the matter of human evil, an advocacy that turns out to contradict Blake’s assertions that moral legislation create the appearance of human evil and hire the idea that of “forgiveness” exclusively to augment the phrases of the unique oppression. Blake, Ethics, and Forgiveness makes a speciality of a huge and pervasive factor present in the paintings of the English Romantic visionary poet, engraver, and mystic William Blake. It treats the ethical and literary challenge of representing moral or human forgiveness, as designated from the divine forgiveness of humans.
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Extra info for Blake, ethics, and forgiveness
Second, Blake's use of the figure of the garment frequently alludes to the rending of the veil of the Temple at Jesus' crucifixion and thus to the dawning of a new dispensation. 1 I adopt this sense of the metaphor to underline that in his later work Blake came to view forgiveness as a new dispensation, along the lines of an ethics of virtue, almost achieving an independent conceptual status, written successfully "without" the dispensation of law. In this chapter I examine the segment of Blake's oeuvre usually cited to support the claim that his ethical position most resembles that of the antinomians.
These priests, motivated by the desire for power, "enslav'd the vulgar," alienating them from the source of religious and imaginative life: "Thus men forgot that All deities reside in the human breast" (MHH 11; E, 38). With such persons controlling the discourse of law and transgression, forgiveness is naturally suspect, either as the "false forgiveness'' that an unjust society metes out to its unfortunates, or as the last resort of weaklings and victims. This latter sense of forgiveness, from the victim's point of view, provides a partial explanation for Blake's first presentation of "forgiveness" in the Marriage.
For if, as the speaker contends, Jesus' actions are motivated by the desire to break each of the commandments, then law merely governs his actions in reverse. "Impulse" provides no relief from "rules" because impulse has no independent motive. Impulse functions as a parasite in the body of the host of rules. A similar logical problem arises in the passage about Jesus breaking the commandments. Any freedom achieved through Jesus' lawbreaking always logically depends on a previous lawgiving. Such an impasse has serious implications for any version of forgiveness.
Blake, ethics, and forgiveness by Jeanne Moskal