William Blake’s evocative figuration of England as Jerusalem is central to debates about his attitude to nationalism. Nonetheless, Jerusalem in his poems is often read as not actually referring to the city in Palestine. In this article, I argue that while Blake’s refraction of Enlightenment standards of time and space has produced depoliticized readings of his Jerusalem, his attempt to restore spirituality to Britain was nonetheless cast in political and in geographical terms. Blake reacted against an Arian theology that relegated spirituality to a distant time and space. In his prophetic poems, he undoes the temporal and spatial organization of the Hebrew Bible, a possibility first explored in Milton and then fully achieved in Jerusalem, where Blake deconstructs the ancient biblical world to rebuild it in modern Britain. To rescue Britain from spiritual crisis, Blake rewrites Newtonian physics and theology, the Miltonian epic, antiquarian histories about the eastern Levant, and the Hebrew Bible. Common to these diverse engagements is Blake’s effacement of the East as the cradle of spirituality, and his recasting of sacred geography in immediate local terms, moving it away from the geography of Palestine.
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ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cultural Studies
- Literature and Literary Theory