Locke and Blake

Wood s lot uncovered Romanticism on the Net.

Might I further suggest Romantic Circles, which has published an article written by my mentor, Dr. R. Paul Yoder, on the language philosophies of John Locke and William Blake:

Unlocking Language: Self-Similarity in Blake’s Jerusalem

Blake’s system differs from Locke’s in significant ways. First, it accepts, indeed insists upon a human standard, the standard of the human form rendered divine by the incarnation. Blake does not seek to remedy the obscurity to which language is “naturally liable” as Locke puts it. Instead, he sees this obscurity as having been appropriated by the Savior for the work of redemption when he took on the human form. Second, Blake’s system is not based on an atomistic object-reference language in which one must always use the same word for the same idea.

Sometimes that grain of sand is a whole world; sometimes that one man is a multitude. As is so often the case for Blake, it all depends on perspective, the expansion or contraction of the organs of perception. And third, Blake’s system respects the integrity of the minute particulars; it does not celebrate the general terms that Locke says are so essential to human thought. (21)

Generalities, though essential, are not all there is to theory. This issue, from March 2001, dealt with Romanticism and complexity. There is an odd relationship between complexity and obscurity. I like Yoder’s take on “fractal self-similarity” in all aspects of Blake’s work. The more deeply I studied Blake, the further my jaw dropped to the floor with his mastery of the manipulation of a reader. Most authors that write on Blake tend to play a similar game, insisting that Blake must be read as obscure and difficult to unravel. That’s what keeps the Blake industry in business.

It depends on your perspective, I suppose. A great deal of Blake’s work is frightfully simple— though fractured through levels of reference that seem to recede into infinity. Once you “get it” it’s actually fairly easy.