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Storch, M. (1981). Blake and Women: “Nature's Cruel Holiness”. Am. Imago, 38(2):221-246.

(1981). American Imago, 38(2):221-246

Blake and Women: “Nature's Cruel Holiness”

Margaret Storch

There is an inescapable contradiction between Blake's expressed sympathy for women within his schema of cultural history, and the actual emotional impetus that lies behind his characterisations of women in most of his major poetry. His concern over women's plight in a degrading world is in tension with deep-rooted feelings of animosity towards them.

Blake is rightly regarded as a radical thinker, who had his own thoroughly regenerative vision of society and was in harmony with the most advanced social radicalism of his age. An essential element in his critique of society, first fully elaborated in Visions of the Daughters of Albion, is his recognition of the debased and exploited position of women, which is, he realizes, a facet of capitalistic greed, class division, and the repressive force of established religion. Women suffer greatly in the fallen state and will partake fully of the happy rejuvenation of all creation that will come about in the redeemed world.

But we cannot ignore certain other aspects of Blake's treatment of women: the fact that women, as emanations, are subservient to men since they have no true existence except in the state of the division of men's psyche; and the cruel and sinister forces women often represent in Blake's myth of the fall. Furthermore, when we consider what moral and intellectual value Blake attaches to “the definite”, we cannot overlook the significance of the fluidity and vagueness with which his women are customarily associated.

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