I’d like to respond to the first question – Why does Milton need to “go down to self-annihilation and eternal death”? (Plate 15, ln. 22; p. 162) in terms of gender.  I think Ka offered some very thought-provoking questions in her post about feminism in Blake’s work, especially her question concerning the status of gender in the new Jerusalem.  Ka asks how gender will be defined in the new Jerusalem, and I think that one of the main reasons why Milton needs to “go down to self-annihilation and eternal death” is to answer this very question.  After Milton declares that he is on his way to Eternal Death, he “beheld his own Shadow;/ A mournful form double; hermaphroditic:  male and female”  (162).  Milton calls his Shadow his “double,” yet this form is quite different than Milton in terms of biological sex.  Milton is male, but his double is hermaphroditic.  In keeping with Blake’s love of contraries, Milton is delighted by his double, noting that male and female are present “in one wonderful body”.  The contrary of male and female, then, are not resolved in this one body, but rather are both present, two opposites alongside one another. Perhaps also in keeping with Blake’s love of fully exploring contraries, Milton  “enterd into” his double “in direful pain for the dread shadow”.  Milton’s understanding of this contrary, his own double, is bodily and physical.   The verb “ented” implies a sexual understanding of this hermaphroditic double.  Milton must “go down to self-annihilation and eternal death” in order to reach this complex understanding of sexuality.  It is only through self-annihilation, which breaks a body into two, that the contraries of gender can be embodied and understood.  It seems that in the New Jerusalem, everyone will understand their own bodies as hermaphroditic.  In the New Jerusalem, the windows of perception will be cleansed, and people will no longer limit themselves to either male or female.

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