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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Reading Response #3

Eighteenth-Century Studies
The article by Molly Anne Rothenberg was a review that she did for a paper on two books. These books explained William Blake’s motivation for his writing style and writing influences. The first book was by Stanley Gardner entitled “Blake’s Innocence and Experience Retraced.” The second book was “The Scattered Potions: William Blake’s Biological symbolism.” By: Rodney M. Baine. In the article, the author explains Gardner’s thesis that “to get any adequate understanding of Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, you have to see where Blake lived and the social conditions around him.” She then goes on to talk about how Blake and his family owned a couple of business that donated funds to the local parish. This would have given Blake an inside view to charity and the atmosphere of the poor. The author of this article is showing us that Blake was for encouraging government policies for the poor. The article quotes Gardner’s opinion, which says, “we have been reading Blake’s condemnation “institutional radicalism” in the 1790s.” Some of the conditions that he witnessed gave Blake the ideas to right some poems for the Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience two of the poems the author says are “Holy Thursday” and “Nurse’s Song.” The article then continues to talk about Gardner’s opinion on Blake’s concern with education of children. Molly explains that Blake was inspired by observing and helping the charity schools for the poor these kids. She said the children made an “annual pilgrimage to St Paul’s on any given Thursday” which shows where the beginnings of the poem “Holy Thursday” came from. In this section, Gardner describes the “wise guardians of the poor” as “beadles” (a minor official who works in a parish who keeps the order). Molly also puts into this section “that Gardner warns us that the “guardian of the poor” was an elected official for who managed the work house for two years.” This is showing me that officials in the parish were elected rather than volunteered to help these people and that they had to be in that position for a two-year term. To me this could be a reason for the elected not to be as “charitable” as someone who really wanted to help. The passage shows us that Gardner spends a great deal of time trying to convince readers that Blake’s sensitivity to the poor is very strong yet there seems to be some contradictions in Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience that shows less optimism and approval. Molly also explains that Gardner only allows one perspective to this poem but she says there are many more. She stresses that Gardner does use a lot of historical info but relies upon one source for interruption she also claims that Gardener seems to miss the mark with topics or lack of topics and appears to take his readers off the path to unspecified locations. In her article, Molly states that Gardner use of his index is good but does not have any “scholarly” references in his book to back it up.

In the second part of this article Molly reviews, another book by Rodney M. Baine entitled The Scattered Portions “. She suggests that the greatest strength of the book seems to rest on why and what influenced Blake to use animal and vegetable worlds in his illustrations.” Molly goes onto say that, the readers of that day and time would understand the meaning of these references. It is also stated that many other sources could give us insight into the thought patterns of the 18th century civilization. The combination of sources would help us to understand what and where William Blake is coming from in his writings. She puts in the article “The bible, Shakespeare, Goldsmith and other major writers were republished in the eighteenth century form the basic canon.” However, by her interruption Baine said that William Blake got it some of his ideas from philosophers and from the canon. In the next paragraph of this article Molly is trying to tell us that Baine has his own interruption of how William Blake used symbolism yet he is to vague and contradictory. The author uses examples of Blaine’s quotes and explanations to demonstrate how Baine changes the topic very rapidly. It appears that neither Baine nor Gardner convince the Molly of Blake’s symbolism or the reasons why he wrote the poems due to the sporadic topics that appear in both books. Blaine did use descriptions of illustrations and the plates that appear in the book were said to be helpful.  It seems to me that either book can give us a small insight into the ways of William Blake, I am not sure that anyone can definitively say where or how Blake came up with his ideas, symbolism and writing style developed from. We can see from either book the influences and experiences that were around Blake during his lifetime. I think Molly has a good insight on these books and her review was informative and gave me cause to check out other sources on Blake’s life.  

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