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    William Blake’s “Fourfold Vision”: a practical antiquary’s visionary contemplations among the “Couches of the Dead”

    Calè, Luisa (2022) William Blake’s “Fourfold Vision”: a practical antiquary’s visionary contemplations among the “Couches of the Dead”. Modern Philology 120 (1), pp. 24-48. ISSN 0026-8232.

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    This essay argues that the artisanal problems of the ‘practical antiquary’ shaped William Blake’s physiological aesthetics and his experience of ‘Fourfold Vision’. As a draftsman and engraver, Blake captured three-dimensional sepulchral monuments on the flat surface of the page, offering different perspectives on the sculptural object from changing points of view - from above, from the side, in horizontal or vertical orientations. In his time as an apprentice to James Basire, Blake produced drawings of the disinterment of Edward I (1774) and funerary monuments at Westminster for Richard Gough’s Sepulchral Monuments (1786) and Vetusta Monumenta (II, 1789). Building on Ruth Mack’s work on practical aesthetics, I will trace how the technical gaze of the draftsman resurfaces in Blake’s writings, from the ‘couches of the dead’ seen through the ‘eternal gates’ of The Book of Thel (1789) to the visionary contemplations around the death couches in The Four Zoas (c.1796-1807) and Milton (1804-11). As an engraver-poet who invented a medium for self-publication, Blake side-stepped the division of labour between the empirical field-worker and the gentleman author that Noah Heringman finds among the knowledge workers of antiquity. Yet the technical ways of seeing that Blake practiced during his antiquarian apprenticeship can be traced through his visionary contemplations. Thinking through technique, Blake crossed the threshold between engraver and poet and embraced a prophetic physiological aesthetics of “fourfold” vision.


    Item Type: Article
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): William Blake, antiquarianism, Society of Antiquaries, apprenticeship, engraver-poet, fourfold vision, physiological aesthetics, contemplation, Milton, couches of the dead
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Creative Arts, Culture and Communication
    Research Centres and Institutes: Nineteenth-Century Studies, Centre for
    Depositing User: Luisa Cale
    Date Deposited: 09 May 2022 09:59
    Last Modified: 09 Aug 2023 12:53


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