The Origins of Loss

  • Brenda S. Webster


Blake’s The Book of Urizen is characterised by a repetitive patterning of events which replaces narrative progression and makes plot-summary impossible.1 One way of viewing the poem’s structure is to say that it revises the traditional Miltonic notion of man’s fall. The fall, according to Blake, is not caused by Adam’s sin but by the separation of Urizen, a parody of Milton’s Jehovah, from the harmonious body of the Eternals.


Sexual Desire Dead Infant Original Separation Oedipal Conflict Aged Ignorance 
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  1. 1.
    I am indebted to W. J. T. Mitchell for this observation, although we understand the patterning from different viewpoints — ‘Poetic and Pictorial Imagination in Blake’s Book of Urizen’, in The Visionary Hand, ed. Robert Essick (Los Angeles: Hennessey & Ingalls, 1973).Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    If, on the other hand, the infant can merge the imagined and the real breast, later, as an adult, he will be able to use his imagination to enrich rather than substitute for reality — Charles Rycroft, ‘On Idealization, Illusion and Catastrophic Disillusion’, Imagination and Reality (New York: International Universities Press, 1968) pp. 36–7.Google Scholar
  3. 9.
    See Sigmund Freud, ‘From the History of an Infantile Neurosis’, in Collected Papers, trans. Alix and James Strachey, vol. iii (New York: Basic Books, 1959) pp. 473–605.Google Scholar
  4. 10.
    See Sigmund Freud, ‘On Transformation of Instincts with Special Reference to Anal Eroticism’, in Collected Papers, trans. Joan Riviere, vol. ii (New York: Basic Books, 1960) pp. 164–72.Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    See Otto Fenichel’s relevant description of fear of infection as a defence against feminine wishes of infection standing for impregnation in The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (New York: W. W. Norton, 1972) p. 209.Google Scholar
  6. 15.
    Fred Weinstein and Gerald M. Platt, in their study of the French Revolution, The Wish to Be Free (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1969), suggest that Robespierre’s ‘retreat to Authority’ was in fact an effort to control his anxiety over feared punishment (pp. 109–36).Google Scholar
  7. 19.
    See Donald Ault, Visionary Physics: Blake’s Response to Newton (University of Chicago Press, 1974) p. 150.Google Scholar

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© Brenda S. Webster 1983

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  • Brenda S. Webster

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