The Irony of Self-Annihilation


Although Blake does not use the terms “Selfhood” or “self-annihiation” until later in his career, the concerns with which these terms are involved are evident, as we have seen, throughout his work. As W. J. T. Mitchell has noted, the earlier absence of these terms is “a reflection of how much more imaginative exploration [Blake] would have to engage in before” they “could be articulated.” The early work can be seen as “a seed for the later poems, raising problems which Blake could solve only by writing more poems” (Blake’s Composite Art 87). As the present study has attempted to show, Blake’s focus on the politics of communication leads him from the problem of language acquisition and the innocent speaker’s confrontation with the “mind-forg’d manacles” of experienced discourses to a vision in which both speakers and listeners annihilate their Selfhoods as they “conversed together in Visionary forms dramatic which bright / Redounded from their Tongues in thunderous majesty” (SIE 46.8, E 27; J 98.28-29, E 257). Throughout this search for the dialogic ideal, Blake employs multi-voiced genres—including the lyric collection, the Menippean satire, and an epic form that places renewed emphasis on the invocation as a moment of dialogic interaction and inspiration—to annihilate any tendency toward monologic authorial Selfhood and to engage the reader’s participation in the creation of the poem’s meaning.


Dialogic Interaction Problematic Alternative Romantic Poet Printing House Contrary Vision 
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.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Copyright information

© John H. Jones 2010

Authors and Affiliations

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations