"Every thing is Human, mighty! sublime!": New Literary Humanism and the Trope of the Daimon in William Blake's Jerusalem

Author: Todd Dearing

Dearing, Todd, 2020 "Every thing is Human, mighty! sublime!": New Literary Humanism and the Trope of the Daimon in William Blake's Jerusalem, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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William Blake’s (1757-1827) poetic statement, “every thing is Human, mighty! sublime!” suggests an extraordinarily strange idea of the human (J34:48, E180). Yet it is upon such daimonic conceptions that Blake’s sublime allegory of poetic genius, Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion (1804-c. 1820), rests. This thesis examines the trope of the daimon in Blake’s Jerusalem. I argue that the human, and humanity, in Blake’s mythos are ontologically daimonic, a dynamic mediator between polarities such as divine and mundane, infinite and finite, eternal and temporal, spirit and matter, subject and object, conscious and unconscious. However, in doing so, I do not read Blake’s daimon literally, but literarily and humanistically. Literarily, I read Blake’s daimon as a key trope for understanding Jerusalem as humanistic mythopoetry wherein literary language plays an important, transformative role. Humanistically, the daimon in Jerusalem serves as a metaphorical focus for questions of human nature, understanding, and potential. Combining these two aspects, I read Jerusalem as an allegory of Blake’s humanism.

The methodology of this thesis is informed and inspired by the recently re-invigorated theories, critical practice, and defences of literary humanism produced by Andy Mousley and Bernard Harrison. In applying such an approach, this thesis both draws from and contributes to the current shift towards new, twenty-first-century humanist approaches to literature. Following a historical contextualisation of the daimon, I examine the daimon in Blake’s Jerusalem from four distinct angles: poetic/aesthetic, psychological/individual, mythological/collective, and artistic/philosophical. From this study of Jerusalem, I synthesise Blake’s allegorical ideas of literary humanism. A consonance between Blake and recent scholarship on literary humanism is then established and critiqued. My original contribution to knowledge is to show that Blake prefigures, in his own way, ideas of new literary humanism. These ideas are then shown to be significant for literary studies within a twenty-first century global context.

Keywords: William Blake, literary humanism, daimon, Jerusalem, literature, human, genius, creativity, imagination, Romanticism, twenty-first century, Bildung

Subject: Languages thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2020
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Dr Eric Parisot