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“What are Those Golden Builders Doing?”: Mendelssohn, Blake, and the (Un)Building of Jerusalem

  • Leslie Tannenbaum

Abstract

If William Blake had heard that Moses Mendelssohn was called the “Socrates of Berlin,”1 Blake would have responded, “That’s just his problem.” And Mendelssohn would have said the same thing if he had heard that Blake regarded himself as an incarnation of “the ever-apparent Elias,” “the Spirit of Prophecy” (Milton 24:71).2 For both writers, at least nominally, squared off on opposite sides of the Enlightenment, and the site of this contestation is a discursive space called Jerusalem, which is the title of the major work of each writer. Both Moses Mendelssohn’s and William Blake’s Jerusalem, besides sharing the same title and the same position in the canon of each writer, also share an intriguing and informative congruence, even in their very differences. Yet, when we closely examine the net effect of both writers’ works, we will find that their most important common factor is their tendency to undo the very project that they attempt to establish.

Keywords

Jewish Community Eternal Truth Folk Religion Discursive Space Divine Revelation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    David Sorkin, Moses Mendelssohn and the Religious Enlightenment (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1996), xx.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Michael A. Meyer, The Origins of the Modern Jew: Jewish Identity and European Culture in Germany, 1749–1828 (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1967), 48.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Alfred Jospe, “Introduction” to Jerusalem, or On Religious Power and Judaism, in “Jerusalem” and Other Jewish Writings, trans. and ed. Alfred Jospe (New York: Schocken, 1969), 1.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Joseph Viscomi, Blake and the Idea of the Book (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), 338–57.Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    Leonard M. Trawick, “William Blake’s German Connection,” Colby Library Quarterly 13, 4 (1977): 231–3.Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    Meyer, The Origins of the Modern Jew, 1–22; Sorkin, xxi, 6–8, 38; Julius Guttmann, Philosophies of Judaism: The History of Jewish Philosophy from Biblical Times to Franz Rosenzweig (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1964), 293–6.Google Scholar
  7. 15.
    Leslie Tannenbaum, Biblical Tradition in Blake’s Early Prophecies: The Great Code of Art (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982), 55–85.Google Scholar
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    Sheila A. Spector, “Wonders Divine”: The Development of Blake’s Kabbalistic Myth (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 2001), 11.Google Scholar
  9. 25.
    Jason Whittaker, William Blake and the Myths of Britain (London: Macmillan, 1999), 47–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 26.
    See Jean H. Hagstrum, “Christ’s Body,” in William Blake: Essays in Honour of Sir Geoffrey Keynes, ed. Morton D. Paley and Michael Philips (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973), 129–56.Google Scholar
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    Michael A. Meyer, “Judaism as a Vehicle of the Enlightenment: The Contribution of Moses Mendelssohn,” Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century 263 (1989): 574.Google Scholar
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    J. G. Davies, The Theology of William Blake (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1948), 1–3.Google Scholar
  13. 40.
    G. E. Bentley, Jr., Blake Records (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969), 40–1.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Sheila A. Spector 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leslie Tannenbaum

There are no affiliations available

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