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

  • Leslie Tannenbaum


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.


Jewish Community Eternal Truth Folk Religion Discursive Space Divine Revelation 
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© Sheila A. Spector 2008

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  • Leslie Tannenbaum

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