As we discussed in class, a lot of Blake’s poetry is centered on the tension between contraries and the simultaneous embodiment of opposing states. We addressed the potential double-meanings in his works and the reciprocity of experience and innocence. These issues made me think of two articles I read pertaining to myths by the French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, “The Structural Study of Myth.” This genre relies on constituent units that consist of a relation, and “bundles” of such relations form universal meaning. In many myths, the different realms oppose each other while contributing to the qualities of each other’s existence, which is possible “by the assertions that contradictory relationships are identical inasmuch as they are both self-contradictory in similar ways.” Many of the relationships portrayed in such tales show that contradictions are drawn to each other by the complimenting faculties of differentiation, and that “mythical thought always progresses from the awareness of oppositions toward their. But for Blake, asserting the oppositions is an end in itself and not merely a means for man to reconcile life’s contradictions, as Levi-Strauss seems to suggest. Blake’s concern is more to recognize the tensions of two opposing facets of existence and transcend the physical limitations through Poetic Genius. In his Proverbs of Hell, many of the axioms suggest a different, or more complex, meaning than one would infer from a first read, creating a layered definition composed of contradictions. One proverb I found interesting is: “Excess of sorrow laughs. Excess of joy weeps.” This seemed to imply a cyclical nature of emotion in that the good and bad can be linked through excess: any human feeling when over-exerted becomes its opposition. This also suggests that when investigating two sides of an argument, contraries tend to blur together instead of maintaining a stark divide, which relates back to Levi-Strauss’s assertion that contraries are interdependent by the very fact of their opposition.

 

Considering both interpretations of opposing forces within existence, do you think its possible to reach a resolve between contraries? Or is Blake more on the right track with pursuing a sort of third-space accessible through the exertion of Poetic Genius?

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