By D. Rainsford
Dominic Rainsford examines ways that literary texts could appear to touch upon their authors' moral prestige. Its argument develops via readings of Blake, Dickens, and Joyce, 3 authors who locate in particular brilliant methods of casting doubt all alone ethical authority, whilst they reveal wider social ills. The e-book combines its curiosity in ethics with post-structuralist scepticism, and hence develops one of those radical humanism with purposes a ways past the 3 authors instantly mentioned.
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Extra info for Authorship, Ethics, and the Reader: Blake, Dickens, Joyce
A dominant characteristic, therefore, both of the speaker and of the childsubjects of Songs of Innocence might be said to be 'innocence' in the sense of 'silliness': 'silliness' with the old pastoral meaning of affecting vulnerability, but with an element of foolishness, selfdeception and even self-destructiveness. The close of day in 'Night', just as in The Couch of Death', suggests mortality, the speaker addressing his pastoral life in the perfect tense, as though that whole mode of being were now concluded: Melancholia and the Search for a System 37 Farewell green fields and happy groves, Where flocks have took delight; (E, 13) A sense, as here, of valediction is generally characteristic of the Songs of Innocence.
Explicit moral and religious viewpoints yield precedence in these poems to a sense of the 'dangerous world' and its attractiveness, an apprehension of the dramatic possibilities of human vulnerability. The children of Innocence exist in a victimized transience, which Blake intensifies by the deliberate 'silliness' of envisaging a salvation that is pointedly unreal, as with the solicitous carnivores of the Little Girl poems, or in the assertions of 'On Anothers Sorrow', which, by protesting too much, seem to prompt a contrary and negative reading: And can he who smiles on all Hear the wren with sorrows small, Hear the small birds grief & care Hear the woes that infants bear And not sit beside the nest Pouring pity in their breast, And not sit the cradle near Weeping tear on infant tear.
To see God, claims Blake in the 'Application', it is necessary to see 'the Infinite in all things' (E, 3). 30 This evaluation is supported by the first 'Principle' of All Religions are One, which states that 'the forms of all things are derived from their Genius' (E, 1). But few will be prepared to agree with Murry or with Blake that it is really a function of the wood's 'incommensurable individuality' that it should be frightening. Rather, it is an imposition of the perceiver's imagination, which governs his perceptions of all things, generating that unity which Blake describes as the 'Infinite'.