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"Success will write apocalypse across the sky" : William Blake and the eschatological performative Thomas, Alexander 2015

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“Success Will Write Apocalypse Across the Sky”: William Blakeand the Eschatological PerformativebyAlexander ThomasB.A, The University of British Columbia, 2006A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FORTHE DEGREE OFMASTER OF ARTSinThe Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies(English)THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA(Vancouver)January 2015© Alexander Thomas, 2015iiAbstractWriting in an era of apocalyptic speculations and millenarian hopes, the Romantic poet andvisionary William Blake made frequent and idiosyncratic use of eschatological themes andimagery throughout his poetry and art. While critics have long recognized the centrality ofapocalyptic themes to Blake’s work, opinion has been largely divided as to the precise nature ofBlakean apocalypticism. Critical attempts to address the complexities of Blakean apocalypticismhave frequently been unable to reconcile Blake's celebration of the polysemous, indeterminatenature of reality with his triumphant vision of divine unity. In this essay, I argue that Blake’seschatological aspirations are realized precisely through his embrace of multiplicity and hisresistance to totalizing systems of normative authority.Drawing on the work of Blake critic Angela Esterhammer, I contend that Blake’sapocalyptic writing is performative, in that it attempts to linguistically create the eschatologicalstate it ostensibly describes. The goal of this Blakean eschatological performative is to radicallytransform the state of epistemological, social, and political closure which Blake characterizes asthe post-lapsarian condition. Blake’s apocalyptic writing deconstructs the tendency ofeschatological speech to calcify into a reinforcement of conventional social structures, whilemodelling a speech-community in which the fundamental legitimacy of all other subjects is afoundational and inalienable principle. This community, called by Blake “Jersualem,” is basedon an embrace of the Other in which their ineluctable alterity paradoxically forms the basis of amore expansive personal identity. Following Judith Butler’s work on the insurrectionarypotential of performatives, I argue that this Jerusalem community has potent politicalramifications, as it enables disempowered, marginalized voices to resist hegemonicpower-structures and lay claim to an agency denied to them by society-at-large.iiiPrefaceThis thesis is original, unpublished, independent work by the author, Alexander Thomas.ivTable of ContentsAbstract.....................................................................................................................................iiPreface.....................................................................................................................................iiiTable of Contents.... ................................................................................................................ivAcknowledgements..................................................................................................................vDedication................................................................................................................................viChapter One “Behold I Make All Things New”: The Eschatological Performative and theBlakeanApocalypse...................................................................................................................1Chapter Two “Break this Heavy Chain”: Eschatological Failure in the Songs ofExperience...............................................................................................................................23Chapter Three “The Lion and Wolf Shall Cease” The Politics of Eschatological Speech inBlake’s America......................................................................................................................46Works Cited............................................................................................................................70vAcknowledgementsMy sincere thanks to my supervisor, Alexander Dick, for his advice, guidance and patienceduring this rather arduous birthing, and to my committee member, Bo Earle. I am also deeplythankful for the love and support of my family, and all of my friends who have had to endure myrather fraught and anxious presence during this time. Finally, a special thank you to EvanMontpellier, for his indispensable last-minute edits (we’ll have to find a home for “illuminatedwoks” somewhere) and to Jessica Harvey and Jon Nussbaum, whose stalwart friendship duringthe darkest hours of this process was invaluable, and in whose home the second chapter of thisthesis was written.viDedicationThis thesis is dedicated to Gillian Dunks, with all my love.“Let us possess one world, each hath one, and is one”1Chapter One“Behold I Make All Things New”: The Eschatological Performative and the BlakeanApocalypseIn 1794 Richard Brothers, a former Naval Officer from Newfoundland, published the firstvolume of A Revealed Knowledge of the Prophecies and Times, the culmination of three years ofpurported visionary experience. This work declared itself to be “the first sign of Warning for thebenefit of All Nations; Containing with other great and remarkable things not revealed to anyother Person on Earth,” (Brothers 1) and announced the coming destruction of London, revealedto be the Babylon of Revelations, the restoration of the Hebrews to Israel, and the imminentspiritual and temporal reign of one Richard Brothers, prophet, “Nephew to the Almighty,”(5) andheir to the throne of David.Brothers' eclectic mix of Biblical prophecy, genealogical speculations, current events,geopolitical predictions, and visionary self-aggrandizement proved to be extremely popular. Bothhis sales and his following continued to grow until, in 1795, he was arrested and confined to anasylum in Islington for prophesying the imminent death of George the Third and the dissolutionof the British monarchy. The failure of his prophesy to come to pass led to the rapid collapse ofhis readership and the dissipation of his acolytes. William Sharp, one of his most devotedfollowers, abandoned him for rival prophet Joanna Southcott, a domestic servant from Devonand self-proclaimed “woman clothed in the sun” of Revelations. Richard Brothers, “the manthat will be revealed to the Hebrews as their prince; to all nations as their governor,” (Brothers12-14) spent the next 30 years in an asylum designing the vestments, flags, and palaces of NewJerusalem, before dying destitute in London on 25 January 1824. (Rix 76-77)2The rapid rise and fall of Brothers' prophetic and literary fortunes was of a piece with theapocalyptic tenor of the time. War, revolution, and rapid scientific and cultural transformationcombined to make the last stretch of the long eighteenth century a period rich in eschatologicalspeculation, millenarian hopes, and apocalyptic terrors. Brothers was hardly alone in seeing inthe American and French Revolutions a sign of the coming millennium. As M.H Abrams writes,“the later eighteenth century was another age of apocalyptic expectation, when the glory andpromise of the American Revolution and , much more, of the early days of the FrenchRevolution, revived among a number of English Nonconformists the millenarian excitement ofMilton” (64).In this climate of revolutionary tumult and millenarian hope, it is of little surprise thatRomanticism, the signature literary movement of the period, is steeped in apocalyptic themesand imagery. As Abrams notes, “In many important philosophers and poets, Romantic thinkingand imagination remained apocalyptic thinking and imagination” (65). The “characters of thegreat Apocalypse” which Wordsworth sees immanent in the natural world; the new heaven andnew earth that follows the fall of Jupiter in Shelley's Prometheus Unbound; the UnitarianMillenarianism of Coleridge's “Religious Musings”; and the nightmarish universal catastrophe ofByron's “Darkness” all illustrate the Romantic tendency to frame personal epiphany, existentialanxiety, social transformation, and natural forces in apocalyptic terms. The Apocalypse providedfor these writers and poets a language to articulate the emergent possibilities of radical social andspiritual transformation offered by the period, and the vast forces, both sublime and terrible, thataccompanied these changes.While all of the major Romantics worked to some degree with apocalyptic themes, WilliamBlake's work, both poetic and visual, engages most extensively and innovatively with the3apocalypse, refashioning the genre to fit his idiosyncratic poetic and theological needs. Fromnearly the beginning of his poetic career, Blake identified his poetic project as fundamentallylinked with the tradition of apocalyptic prophecy. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell depictsBlake, with great humour and wry irony, as the dinner companion of the Biblical prophets Isaiahand Ezekiel, and the implicit heir of their prophetic mantles. It announces the imminentconflagration of the world, liberating it from the constricting limitations of the five senses andleading to a radical expansion of consciousness. “The cherub with his flaming sword is herebycommanded to leave his guard at the tree of life,” Blake declares, “and when he does, the wholecreation will be consumed and appear infinite and holy” (Blake 121). In a flurry of paradoxicalwisdom, pugnacious satire and Cockney mother wit, Blake goes on to attack the “errors of allBibles or sacred codes,” taking particular care to skewer his prophetic rival EmmanuelSwedenborg. At turns hilarious and horrifying, startlingly lucid and stubbornly oblique,Marriage of Heaven and Hell announces Blake's entry into the popular British genre ofApocalyptic prophecy, a genre he will tackle on his own terms.This eschatological inclination only intensifies as Blake's poetic career unfolds. His laterilluminated works, what are commonly referred to as his “prophecies,” are largely dedicated tothe development of Blake's personal mythopoetic system. That system places Apocalypse at thecentre of its concerns. Blake's mythology describes the Fall of the Eternal Man from theprelapsarian state of unity and harmony in the bosom of the Divine Humanity. This Fall wasinitiated by the rebellion of one of the four cardinal elements of the human mind, called by Blakethe Four Zoas after the Four Living Creatures that surround the throne-chariot of God in theBook of Ezekiel. Urizen, the rebellious Zoa, represents the rational, objectifying function of themind, and his drive for dominion drags the three other Zoas into warring chaos and leads to the4construction of the fallen “world of the five senses.” There Urizen strives to establish himself as“One King One God One Law,”(Blake 72) subjugating the shattered wreck of the human soulthrough totalitarian politics, religious law, and sexual oppression. Urizen in his fallen staterepresents absolute epistemological closure on every level: political, ideological, sensual,existential, and metaphysical, a bleak, isolated nightmare in which the only virtue is power, theonly change is death, and the only love a brutal and joyless war of dominance.The only hope in a landscape so bereft of possibilities is a radical shattering of thisepistemological closure, the end of the world. This apocalyptic transformation is brought aboutin Blake's mythic account through the efforts of the Zoa Urthona (called in his fallen, or“vehicular” form, Los), who represents the poetic faculty of the Eternal Man. Los, who isidentified in turns with Jesus, the Hebrew Prophets, and Blake himself, is depicted as a masterarchitect, constructing out of the ruins of the fallen world a visionary city of art named, in one ofBlake's more unfortunate mythic neologisms, Golgonooza. This spiritual city will, at the momentof eschatological fulfilment, replace the fallen world of Urizen and reveal itself as Jerusalem,bride of the Eternal Man and his companion in the eternal creative activity of the DivineImagination.Scholarship on Blake has obviously not been blind to the poet's eschatological orientation.“From its beginnings,” writes Steven Goldsmith, “modern Blake criticism has placed apocalypseat the centre of its investigations. We have never moved off that foundation, and for goodreason” (135). Much of the credit (and perhaps blame) for this foundation can laid at the feet ofNorthrop Frye, whose seminal Blake study Fearful Symmetry still casts a long shadow overBlake criticism. Frye characterized Blakean eschatology as a rapturous aesthetic epiphany, theapotheosis of the literary experience. For Frye, Blake's Apocalypse represents the highest level5of literary understanding, what Frye calls the “anagogic” or universal phase of literature. Here“literature imitates the total dream of man, and so imitates the thought of a human mind which isat the circumference and not at the centre of its reality... Nature is now inside the mind of aninfinite man who builds his cities out of the Milky Way. This is not reality, but it is theconceivable or imaginative limit of desire, which is infinite, eternal, and hence apocalyptic”(Anatomy of Criticism 119). This apocalypse is not social or communal, as Frye consignscommunity art and myth to an earlier, less sophisticated phase of artistic development, but aprivate vision of spiritual unity, the revelation of “the inner form of everything” (136). For Frye,the Blakean apocalypse is first and foremost a vision of the inner meaning of poetry, anilluminated and transcendent act of reading. Much as Revelations itself is “the vision of the totalmeaning of the Scriptures” (Frye Great Code 136), so too is “all of Blake's own art... an attemptto achieve absolute clarity of vision and a beginners guide to the understanding of the archetypalvision of which it forms part” (Fearful Symmetry 418). The apocalypse provides a key to art, thegoal of which is to lead the reader back to deeper and deeper realms of aesthetic revelation.Critical thought on Blakean eschatology can still be defined in relation to the apocalypticformalism exemplified by Frye's ecstatic vision of literary transcendentalism. Following Frye,critics such as M.H. Abrams, John Beer, and Morton Paley have worked to historicize Blake'simaginative apocalypse, characterizing it as compensation for the disillusioning failure of themillenarian hopes of the French Revolution. Blake moves, says Ostriker, “from a faith inrevolution perhaps assisted or exemplified by art to faith in Imagination as that which alonecould prepare mankind for its harvest and vintage” (233). Abrams argues that this movementfrom political radicalism to imaginative vision is paradigmatic of the Romantic era, which saw“a widespread shift in the bases of hope from political revolution to the powers inherent in6human consciousness” (65). Paley, for his part, traces Blake's relation with radical ChristianMillenarian Enthusiasm, linking Blake's early apocalypticism with sects like the Methodists andthe Wesleyians (Paley 40). While these critics complicate Frye's tendency to see Blake as anatemporal, archetypal poet by rooting him in his concrete sociohistorical context, they ultimatelyreconfirm his transcendental arc by characterizing Blake's eschatological aspirations as amovement away from history. As Paley argues, the visionary climaxes of Blake's late-periodprophecies “suggest Blake's realization that...he had promised apocalypse and millennium inhistory but had delivered them only within the self” (90).However more recent scholarship has problematized this transcendent characterization ofBlake's work. For critics such as Paul Mann, Tillototta Rajan, David Simpson, and StevenGoldsmith, Blake's insistence on an irreducible individuality, his “fierce materiality,” hostilitytowards abstraction, and commitment to the deconstruction of totalizing systems arefundamentally at odds with the advancement of formal, humanist Apocalypticism. These aspectsof Blake have proved particularly appealing to critics of a deconstructionist or poststructuralistbent. Simpson writes, “Of all the writers I know Blake is... the most open to analysis in terms setforward by Derrida” (13).Mann and Goldsmith have gone so far as to characterize Blake's worksas essentially anti-apocalyptic, seeing them as deconstructive acts of resistance againsteschatological aspirations and their accompanying investment in a totalizing worldview. “TheBook of Urizen,” Mann writes, “asks whether the very forms in which a visionary poet works arenot ultimately futile, whether poetic apocalypse is not a contradiction in terms” (61).Goldsmith sees a fundamental division between the eschatological and political elements ofBlake's work, writing, “Blake's political millenarianism paradoxically required a resistance toliterary apocalypse.” (139). Blake's commitment to democratic principles necessitated that his7work take on a representational form that “does its work precisely by blocking apocalypse”(138).In short, critical attempts to address the complexities of Blakean apocalypticism havefrequently been unable to reconcile Blake's celebration of the polysemous, indeterminate natureof reality with his triumphant vision of divine unity. This division is reflected in the prioritygiven by these critics to differing periods of Blake's work. While for Frye and his fellowhumanists, Blake's writing forms a coherent canon, a magnificent architectural whole whichreaches its most perfect expression in Milton and Jerusalem, for deconstructionists like Rajan“the late epics represent not a cumulative and climatic literary achievement but a falling off fromthe more directly political engagement of the early 1790s” (213). Poststructuralist critics do notprize Blake's promise of imaginative redemption; rather, they accentuate his depiction ofunredeemed, fallen human life, in all its ambiguities and horrors. As Leopold Damrosch put it,“rather than rhapsodizing about Blake's apocalyptic breakthrough as if it were easily attained, wemight dwell instead on the bitter honesty with which he has dramatized the preapocalypticcondition, which may be the only condition we can ever know” (140).Nevertheless, these prevalent views of Blake's eschatology, namely the humanist,historicist, and deconstructionist, share a common view of the Blakean apocalypse as a fixed,identifiable state, whether that be one of aesthetic rapture, Christ's millenarian reign, or a futile,and dangerously authoritarian, fantasy of unity. However, I contend that for Blake theapocalypse is not a single reified event, imminent in history or the structure of existence, with aself-identical meaning unchanging in any context; instead, it is a perpetual upheaval whichupends the epistemological, political, and metaphysical assumptions which make up aworld-system. Rather than the end of history, and the imposition of a divine, utopian, and8unchanging order, Blakean eschatology is an embrace of pure, unanticipated contingency, theintroduction of previously unimaginable possibilities into an apparently closed system of thought.The epistemological closure symbolized by the Urizenic consciousness entirely forecloses thepossibility of change or novelty, creating a ceaseless cycle called by Blake “the ratio” in which,as he writes in All Religions are One, one of his first illuminated works, the human mind“stand[s] still, unable to do other than repeat the same dull round over again” and [the] universeitself, circumscribed by its predetermined limits, “become[s] a mill with complicated wheels” (2).Standing in opposition to this epistemological calcification is “the poetic or prophetic character”which “sees the infinite in all things” and thus radically expands the circumference of desirebeyond the dull round of the familiar, so that “the desire of man being Infinite, the possession isInfinity and himself infinite” (3). This expansion of desire allows for the possibility of change ina previously preordained cosmos1 shattering the definitional boundaries which order theexperiential world in a radical manner characterized by Blake as apocalyptic.Blake is hardly alone in explicitly characterizing the apocalypse, and the advent of theKingdom of God, in terms of newness. The entry on “New” in Alan Richardson's TheologicalWord Book of the Bible notes that “the word 'new' acquires its distinctly biblical meaningwhenever it takes on an eschatological significance and implies the passing away of the old order-the present world-age- and the breaking in of 'the new world to come.'” Thus the Old Testamentlooks forward to the making of a 'new covenant... the imparting of a 'new spirit'... the making ofa new heavens and a new earth” (159). Richardson goes on to note that “the New Testamentclaims that the 'new age' has already broken in and has manifested itself in Jesus and the Church...1 Predestination is one of Blake's particular theological bugbears. See, for example, his annotations to Swedenborg’sDivine Providence, which are largely composed of Blake’s outraged accusation that Swedenborg advocates adefacto post-mortem Calvinism and that “Predestination after this life is more abominable than Calvins &Swedenborg is such a Spiritual Predestinarian” (Blake 610).9the 'New Spirit' has been given... the new creation has been achieved” (159). Biblical scholarRudolf Bultman argues that this “future of the totally new… the totaliter alter” (Bultmann 30)becomes increasingly the primary meaning of the apocalypse in later New Testament writingssuch as the Gospel of John, rather than a faith in the imminent return and reign of a supernaturalChrist. The writer of John, Bultmann claims “demythologized the eschatology in a radicalmanner” so that “the resurrection of Jesus, Pentecost, and the parousia are one and the sameevent” (33). Consequentially, the apocalyptic faith of the early Christians is reimagined as a“readiness for the unknown future that God will give. In brief, it means to be open to God'sfuture in the face of death and darkness” (31). This, Bultmann argues, is the “deeper meaning ofthe mythologized teachings of Jesus – to be open to God's future which is really immanent foreveryone of us; to be prepared for this future which can come as a thief in the night when we donot expect it” (31). The post-modern theologian John Caputo places this reckless openness toGod's unknown future at the centre of what he calls his “theology of the event,” writing, “Ipursue the experiment of thinking of God as the source of irregularity, of disordered anddisplaced orders...God is the force or element in things that interrupts their current drift. If'nature' means the drift (dérive) of what is happening (arriver), the 'event' diverts and sets thingsadrift. The 'event' means what we cannot see coming... The name of 'God' has the effect ofsetting things on a new course, of making things new – for better or for worse” (34).This view of the apocalypse, which conflates the Pauline “New Man” with the “New Spirit”of the spiritual Church and the “New Heaven and Earth” of Revelation not only works toimmanentize the eschaton, to borrow Voegelin’s memorable phrase (though without thepejorative connotations he attaches to it), but makes the eschatological utterance a fundamentallyperformative act, to use the term for speech-acts coined by J.L Austin in his 1960's lecture series10How to Do Things with Words. Performative language theory, as outlined by Austin,distinguishes between two distinct categories of language, what he calls the constative and theperformative. Constative language refers to propositions which may judged based on their truthor falsity, while the performative is a mode of speech which attempts to initiate action or change.“The Earth revolves around the Sun” is a constative statement, whereas “pass the salt” or “let mypeople go” are performative utterances, judged not by their truthfulness, but by their success,what Austin calls “felicity.”(Austin 5). This felicity, in the work of Austin and his immediatesuccessors such as John Searle, is determined primarily by the speaker's social status and/or thepositioning of her discourse within the larger political and social structures of society. “Ipronounce you man and wife” for example, would only be felicitous if pronounced by a licensedofficiant over two people consenting to be married. However, Blake scholar AngelaEsterhammer coined the term “phenomenological performative” to describe a specific, poeticgenre of speech-act distinct from sociopolitical performativity which refers to “an author's abilityto 'create' reality through poetic or fictional utterances, independent of societal conventions butin accordance to literary conventions that ascribe creative (or visionary or prophetic) authority tothe speaking voice and elicit the reader's or hearer's assent” (12).This phenomenological performance gains a particular urgency when uttered in aneschatological context, in which the reality being “created” is not simply an alternative visionaryworld but a “new heaven and earth” ostensibly ordained by divine fiat. As scholars such asBultmann and Richardson have argued, this new world is not confined to an indeterminate futurebut has “already broken in and manifested itself” (Richardson 159) in the here-and-now.Consequentially, the apocalyptic utterance gains its performative force from its invocation of thiseschatological reality, and its invitation (or demand) for the listener to participate in this11already-manifest new world. It is simultaneously a declaration, a warning, a prediction, and aninvocation, calling into being the very state, whether political, spiritual, existential, or all three,which is being ostensibly described. In the Beatitudes, the series of blessings that open theSermon on the Mount, Jesus declares, “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”(Luke 6:20). In doing so, he is inaugurating a new eschatological social order (“the kingdom ofheaven”) that not only acts outside of the immediate social order, but in fact annuls and replacesit. In a sense, in the act of declaration, the eschatological performative accomplishes its ownapocalyptic promise, imaginatively establishing a radically new society based on fundamentalprinciples of higher justice and love. To this degree, the eschatological performative resemblesDavid Barr's rhapsodic description of what he characterizes as the liturgical nature of theApocalypse: “The liturgical recital of the Apocalypse becomes a real experience of the Kingdomof God... This is no ephemeral experience. The hearers are decisively changed... They live in anew reality in which lambs conquer and suffering rules” (27).On the other hand, this eschatological fulfilment is deeply provisional. While Barr mayclaim that “persecution does not shock them back to reality” (27), the listener still emerges fromthis apocalyptic rapture to face a world in which Babylon the Great remains unfallen, and deathretains his sting. While an apocalyptic pronouncement does in a sense contain its own fulfilment,it also contains what Frank Kermode calls its discomfirmation, the process in which aneschatological hope is disappointed without being discredited, a capacity to which Kermodecredits much of apocalypse's “remarkable resiliency” (8). The power and agony of theeschatological utterance lies in this dual nature, its transcendental victory over time and fateparadoxically coupled with the tragic awareness of its failure.The Russian philosopher and theologian Nikolai Berdyaev explores this paradox in his12discussion of the creative act, an activity which he views as fundamentally eschatological.Creative activity, Berdyaev writes in his treatise on eschatology The Beginning and the End, “isan end of this world and in its original outburst, it desires the end of this world, it is thebeginning of a different world. Creative activity is, therefore, eschatological” (183). Itseschatological quality is, for Berdyaev, simultaneously its performative quality, in that it strivesto illocutionarily realize what it ostensibly describes. As Berdyaev rhapsodizes, “the creativeactivity of Beethoven ought to have led to the whole world's breaking into sound like asymphony” (181). Creative activity, a category in which Berdayaev includes “eros-love and thelove that is compassion” (184), overcomes the stultifying, objectifying powers of the world andopens up a new realm of fluid, dynamic possibility. However, this eschatological triumph istempered by its tragic failure. “A new life does not advance to meet us,” Berdyaev writes. “Thetransformation of the world does not take place, nor a new heaven and new earth appear” (184).The tragedy of eschatology, according to Berdyaev, is its need for embodiment. It originatesin the noumenal, but it demands concrete expression in the phenomenal. “Within its existence inthe world” he writes, “love grows cold, it becomes objectified and it is robbed of itseschatological character. And so it is with everything” (184). This fact, present in the creative act,is all the more achingly true with regards to more direct examples of eschatological speech. Thetragedy of the failure of art to liberate us from objectification pales before “one most terriblecreative failure, the failure of Christianity, of the work of Christ in the world... There is nothingmore horrifying and more gloomy than the objectification in history of that fire which Christbrought down from heaven” (187). This is not to say, Berdyaev is quick to point out, “it was allwithout meaning and pure loss” (187). All genuine creative acts contain within them the seeds ofeschatological transformation, and work to dramatize the tension between the kingdom of the13Spirit, the nouemenal world of pure subject, and the objectifying forces of the phenomenal world.However, this agon of noumen and phenomena, though not tragic in the sense that it neversuccumbs to the inevitability of fate, still plays itself out as all-too-fleeting moments of ecstasythat serve to ultimately heighten the overwhelming sense of failure and loss. “There is nothingmore terrible, more hopeless” Berdyaev laments, “nothing more tragic than every act ofrealization.” (188).This tragicomic, self-defeating dimension of the eschatological performative does not,however, simply render it a self-referential aesthetic object, a more poignant, less triumphantvariant of Frye's apocalyptic sublime, as Harold Bloom suggests when he writes of Romanticapocalypticism: “They failed of their temporal prophecy, but they failed as the Titans did,massive in ruin and more human than their successors” (xv). Instead, as Christopher Burdonwrites, “This unveiling is not entirely intellectual or aesthetic. It unleashes action” (7). The newlife invoked by the apocalyptic utterance demands to be lived out, a desire that spills intotemporal action as millenarian preparation, spiritual cultivation, or revolutionary violence. Theeschatological performative works on the sphere of action not through a programmatic schema,but precisely through the longing created by its loss. It is, in effect, an erotic force, a desire withwhich, as Paul of Tarsus puts it, “the whole creation groaneth” (Romans 8:22).The nature of this eschatological eros, however, is profoundly difficult to define clearly.While we can agree with Burdon that it “unleashes action,” and has historically inspired a greatvariety of activity, including mystical asceticism, revolutionary action, social protest, and culticviolence, it becomes difficult to reconcile how a single utterance (the Sermon on the Mount, forexample, or the Book of Revelation) can lead simultaneously to revolutionary movements,religious quietism, and reactionary authoritarianism, as it has at various points in history. In other14words, while it is clear that apocalyptic utterances possess a strong illocutionary force, in thatthey warn, proclaim, denounce, and otherwise act on and move their audiences (a force oftenpersonified in the Christian tradition by the movement of the Holy Spirit), it is difficult to discernprecisely what perlocutionary act, “what we bring about or achieve by saying something”(Austin 108), is being attempted. The conditions of the success of the eschatologicalperformative, their felicity, to use Austin's terms, is unclear. This is due to a simultaneoustheological and hermeneutic incommensurability of the address.As Berdyaev outlines, there is a fundamental incommensurability between the “Kingdom ofHeaven” invoked in the eschatological utterance and the dominant sociopolitical context. TheKingdom is not merely a new social system, or the reassumption of a previous idealsociopolitical order, but represents the incursion of the absolutely new into a moribundworld-system, and so requires, among other things, a complete linguistic revolution, in whichwords such as “time,” “death,” “meek,” and “kingdom” are unmoored from their conventionalmeaning and made strange and unfamiliar. The eschatological performative attempts a definitivebreak with its sociopolitical context, challenging not only the dominant social compact, but theepistemology and hermeneutics from which it derives its authority. As Derrida observes, “[i]t is achallenge to the established receivability of messages and to the policing of destination, in short,to the postal police or the monopoly of posts” (160). Apocalyptic utterances, teeming withvisionary grotesqueries, gnomic warnings, symbolic figures and impossible social orders, presenta daunting hermeneutical challenge to the would-be interpreter. Obscurity is part and parcel ofprophetic authority, pointing as it does to its origin in an incomprehensible divine future, seen, asSt. Paul would have it, “through a glass, darkly.” As Burdon writes, the apocalypse is “thedisclosure of hidden knowledge. This knowledge... derives from the Creator himself, and the15visionary – like Isaiah in the divine council or Ezekiel seeing the chariot – is being admitted tothe thoughts of God. But the knowledge is fragmentary and the books are sealed, awaiting (intheir fictional world) the perfect reader who will possess the divine wisdom required to share thevision” (9). Apocalyptic texts are simultaneous veilings and unveilings, purported divinerevelations that serve to baffle as much as they illuminate, and whose promise of perfect wisdomis linked inextricably to their thwarting of conventional interpretive strategies. “Whateverhermeneutical strategies one tries to adopt” Burdon writes of the Book of Revelation, “the textpersists in destabilizing the alert reader”(8). While this destabilization is key to eschatologicalspeech's transformative power, as its stubborn inability to be easily absorbed into conventionalhermeneutic systems allows for the possibility of articulating genuine novelty, it provesproblematic when analyzed in context of its performative nature, which is usually seen asgaining its force from conventional structure. Austin stresses the crucial role of social conventionin the potential felicity of performative addresses. In outlining the conditions of performativesuccess, he writes: “There must exist a certain conventional procedure having a certainconventional effect, that procedure to include the uttering of certain words by certain persons incertain circumstances” (14). If this condition is not met, or the conventional authority is notrecognized by the participants, “our performative utterance will be (in one way or another)unhappy” (15). A clear difficulty arises when dealing with the eschatological performative whichpurports to inaugurate a new world-order incommensurate with even the basic organizationalprinciples of the dominant sociopolitical system. It claims to bring an end to time and history, thevery conventions, precedents and community consensus upon which the Austinian performativerests.Historically, this paradox has traditionally been resolved through the creation of what could16be called an eschatological community, an interpretive community which strives to make senseof the address, in which the impossible demands of the eschatological performative can be madecomprehensible and, in some form, felicitous (or, to use the Biblical term, “Blessed”), if only ina symbolic or ritualized form. This community is, as Bultmann notes, traditionally embodied bywhat the New Testament calls the ecclesia, the assembly of the faithful, both actual and ideal,which claims to be “the eschatological community of the elect, of the saints who are alreadyjustified and are alive because they are in Christ” (Bultmann 32). In order to regulate theinterpretive norms that govern this community or communities, a body of literature that models afelicitous response to the eschatological performative is required. The Acts of the Apostles, ahagiographic account of the formation of the primitive Christian community centred around theApostolic mission of Paul of Tarsis, is a classic example of this process. The Book of Acts,which could just as easily be named the Speech-Acts of the Apostles, is the record of a formativeseries of felicitous and infelicitous eschatological performatives following the death of Jesus.This process is exemplified by the story of the Feast of Pentecost, the inaugural moment of theapostolic ministry. Here, as in the rest of Acts, illocutionary force is personified through theintervention of the Holy Spirit, who manifests through the miracle of the gift of tongues: “Andsuddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entirehouse in which they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and atongue rested on each of [the apostles]. All were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak inother languages, as the Spirit gave them ability” (Acts 2:2-4). This inrush of divine illocutionleads to a triumphant eschatological pronouncement by the Apostle Peter, who declares that “theSun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord's greatand glorious day. Then everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts172:20-21). This speech leads, after a great deal of hand-wringing on the part of the repentantaudience, to the remarkable addition of “about three thousand” new believers to the ranks of theTwelve. This moment of miraculous conversion is followed immediately by a description of thenew community created in response to the eschatological performative: “All who believed weretogether and had all things in common: they would sell their possessions and distribute theproceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple,they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts” (Acts 2:44-46).This movement from eschatological speech-act to egalitarian community organizing isrepeated over and over throughout Acts, forming one of the central narrative threads of the book.In effect, Acts provides the reader with a paradigmatic response to the eschatological addresses'in the work, providing a conventional framework in which the otherworldly demands of theapocalyptic speech-act can work concretely within a sociopolitical context. Felicitous sermonslead to the swelling of the Christian community, which continues to operate, we are assured, onstrictly egalitarian grounds: “There was not a needy person among them, for as many as ownedlands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles'feet, and it was distributed to each as had any need” (4: 34-35). It is crucial that part of thehermeneutical structure offered by Acts, and the interpretive community that it represents, is acommunitarian social praxis, a way of living which emerges from and somehow makes sense ofthe eschatological utterance. Interpreting the eschatological “reality” invoked by the Pentacostaldeclaration, or the Sermon on the Mount, or the Book of Revelation, requires, in the view of theBook of Acts, more than an exegetical gloss, but necessitates participation in a new kind ofsociety, a new mode of Being. As Berdyaev writes, “The Kingdom of God, the seeking of whichis the essence of Christianity, is not only the saving of separate souls, but also a spiritual society,18a communion of men. It is social in the metaphysical sense of the word” (214).This modelling of felicitous and infelicitous eschatological speech-acts in the Book ofActs points both to the radical and reactionary elements of apocalyptic speech. On one hand, thehermeneutic challenges of eschatological language, the struggle to assign meaning to a purporteddivine announcement which transcends the conventional boundaries of social convention,religious and political authority, and even language itself opens the door to radical rethinkings ofsocial and religious structures, as evidenced by the egalitarian communities of Acts and thechallenges recorded throughout it, the Gospels and the Pauline Epistles to community boundaries,taboos, purity laws, sexual and social roles and hierarchy. Though not all of these challengeswere, of course, successful, and a great deal of St. Paul’s efforts were devoted to containingsome of the more revolutionary possibilities of the Christian kerygma, such as gender equality,their presence as part of the debates of the nascent Christian community points to the profoundpossibilities for social change initiated by the eschatological announcement of the Kingdom.On the other hand, we see in Acts the beginning of a structure of codification that assigns adefinite meaning to eschatological speech, and as such threatens to rob it of its disruptive,transformative capacity. The creation of a community to interpret and enact the eschatologicalperformative, while necessary in making sense of the declaration, also solves the hermeneuticvertigo to which the eschatological performative owes its uniquely radical character. The Acts ofthe Apostles does not merely model felicitous and infelicitous moments of eschatological speech,but is also a community history, a hagiographic account of the founding of the primitiveChristian Church, told from the perspective of Pauline Christianity. As such, the egalitariangroups created in response to the Apostolic mission are not merely spontaneous responses to thepromptings of the Holy Spirit, but refer to specific communities, already established by the time19of Acts' writing, with pre-existent conventions, theologies, and hierarchies. The apocalypticdeclarations of Jesus or Peter are not received as incommensurable encounters with divine reality,but as mythical foundation points which confirm the authority and legitimacy of the ChristianChurch. The eschatological demand is answered in the institutions and rituals of the Church,interpreted and fulfilled in perfect felicity by liturgy and theology. As Bultmann writes, “[i]n thesacramental church, eschatology is not abandoned but is neutralized in so far as the powers of thebeyond are already working in the present” (24).This shift of millenarian expectation to an Augustinian ecclesiastical City of God, inwhich the apocalypse is hermeneutically resolved and the eschatological utterance hassuccessfully become, in the Austinian sense, entirely conventional speech, brings us back toBerdyaev’s lament concerning the tragic fate of the noumenal in phenomena: “It must beemphatically recognized that failure is the fate that awaits all embodiments of the creative fire, inconsequence of the fact that it is in the objective world that it is given effective realization.Which stands at a higher level, St Francis of Assisi himself... or the Franciscan Order which hefounded and in which his spirit has been extinguished and the dull commonplace routine hastriumphed? Which reaches the higher level, Luther and the flaming religious drama that was hisexperience, or the Lutheran Church which he founded, with its pastors and theologies of theeighteenth and nineteenth centuries among whom rationalism and moralism flourishedvictoriously?” (185-186). While one does not necessarily have to agree with the hierarchicalvalue judgement which Berdyaev places on this shift, the fact remains that the entrance ofeschatological speech into history inevitably changes the nature and meaning of the language,making a social convention out of the purported end of conventional society.However, eschatology's core longing “to explode the continuum of history,” as Walter20Benjamin put it, leads to an ineluctable instability at the heart of eschatological communities.They are fundamentally transitory and provisional, hostile to their own entrance into history, andresistant to assimilation into the dominant narrative. In apocalyptic typology, temporal powerstructures, whether political or ecclesiastical, are always Babylon, always the persecutors of thetrue community of God. While religious authorities such as Augustine have attempted to nullifythis eschatological instability by defining the Kingdom of God as being identical with theinstitution of the Church, there remains in eschatological discourse an ungovernabledeconstructive seed that yearns for a fuller, more encompassing fulfilment, and that threatens toraze any systems that work to dull that longing.As we shall see in the following chapters, the apocalyptic writing of William Blake isprofoundly engaged with these tensions between sociopolitical convention and the revolutionarypossibilities of apocalyptic speech. Blake's poetry operates in a sociopolitical and linguisticlandscape in which the language of apocalypse is a familiar trope, a conventional form of addressthat can be employed to lend force to religious, moral, and political proclamations of every stripe.As such, Blake is extremely conscious of how the language of apocalypse, if employedunreflectingly, can serve to reinforce the very systems of power that it purportedly condemns.Clearly, Blake could not accept the unproblematic association between the spiritual ecclesia ofthe apocalyptic new life and the institutional structure of the English or Roman Church assumedby the orthodox theologians of the day. Neither did he advocate the creation of an alternative,nonconformist ecclessia more in line with his own theological inclinations, as his disillusionmentwith the then-emergent Swedenborgian Church of the New Jerusalem illustrates. While Blakedid attend the first General Conference of the New Jerusalem Church in England in 1789 (hissignature is on the guest book Rix 78), he savagely attacks Swedenborg in Marriage, writing,21“Swedenborg has not written one new truth... he has written all the old falsehoods” (43). In hislater writings, Blake more sympathetically characterizes Swedenborg as “the Samson shorn bythe Churches” (111), implying that the “old falsehoods” are less Blake's specific theologicaldisagreements with Swedenborg (of which he had plenty) and more the codification ofSwedenborg's individual visions into an official church doctrine.None of this is to say, however, that Blake is concerned primarily with an interior,individualistic apocalypse that transcends social or political relationships. Recent scholarshipfrom critics like Richard Sha, Christopher Hobson, and Sari Makdisi have convincinglyhighlighted Blake's fundamentally communitarian orientation, effectively challenging thestill-common conception of Blake as the epitome of the solitary artist, the lone prophet whosesingle-minded commitment to his singular vision isolated him in the lonely tower of his owngenius. As Makdisi points out, Blake advocated a model of existence in which “joy is not theproperty of a private self sealed off from an outside public sphere. It is, or rather it ought to be,the basis of community” (xiv). This Blakean eschatological community, however, is not aseparate institutional religious or political polis. Unlike comparable figures like David Brothersor Gerrard Winstanley, the seventeenth century mystic and political activist whose theologybears many striking resemblances to Blake's, and whose visionary career culminated in thepublication of England's first communist manifesto, the New Law of Righteousness, Blake'swriting is entirely devoid of concrete political or social programs. Instead, Blake focuses on thestructural basis of community, which he locates in language, and to which he assigns asimultaneous social and epistemological function. Genuinely apocalyptic speech for Blakerequires not merely the creation of a new community, which inevitably calcifies into aninstitutionalized and authoritarian system, but on radically altering the conventions by which22speech is felicitous in a social sphere. Specifically, Blake advocates a movement from anAustinian model of social convention, in which speech acts are regulated by a preexistentstructure of normative authority, to a more egalitarian speech community predicated on arigorously intersubjective mode of social interaction based on a radical recognition andaffirmation of the Other. In this way, Blake's project is of a piece with the broader work ofspeech theorists of the Romantic period, for whom “among the effects of every speech-act is, atleast potentially, the founding of new conditions according to which speech does act”(Esterhammer 17).23Chapter Two“Break this Heavy Chain”: Eschatological Failure in The Songs of ExperienceAs we have seen, for William Blake the Apocalypse represents a radical, idiosyncraticexpansion of human possibility. “Then the last judgement begins” he writes, “and it's Vision isseen by the Imaginative Eye of Every one according to the situation he holds”(554). Blake'sattraction to apocalyptic language stems from its hermeneutically destabilizing potential, itscapacity to disrupt dominant narratives and social mores while pointing to radical new social,epistemological, and ontological possibilities. Eschatological speech invites us to recognize thatour social, linguistic, and epistemological boundaries are provisional, to imagine a world inwhich the margins form the centre, power gives way to love, and the separation between humanand the divine is eroded. It is a call to a new kind of community, one not beholden to thetyrannies of necessity and convention.However, by Blake's time, traditional eschatological language already fit into a long and richinterpretative tradition, beginning with texts such as Revelation and Acts which operated in part,as Goldsmith observes, as “act[s] of community formation in line with the incipientinstitutionalization of the Church...[which] function to create and even to impose the universaland metaphysical consensus in Christ that it claims to transcribe” (20), and in which “theunwieldy multiplicity of voices, the stubborn persistence of difference in history, society, andlanguage... must be terminated in order to legitimate the unified image a new social order claimsfor itself” (20). This hermeneutic closure, which repurposes eschatological speech to serve theready-made needs of Church and State authorities, and which de-claws its disruptive,24revolutionary potential by abstracting or aestheticizing its millenarian promises, was particularlyactive in Blake's time as a way of discrediting the apocalyptic claims made in support of theAmerican and French Revolutions. As Goldsmith writes, “by the time Blake inherited andreworked an understanding of Revelation as a uniquely powerful text, the aestheticization ofprophecy and apocalypse had rather effectively served the interests of state apologists” (109).Blake viewed this foreclosure of the revolutionary potential of apocalyptic language, inwhich eschatology becomes appropriated and subsumed into discourses of power, assymptomatic of a larger postlapsarian condition rooted in the mythical Fall of language itself.Leonard Deen notes that the Fall in Blake's later prophecies is explicitly linked to a collapse ofdiscourse: “Zoas separated from their Emanations – the power to reveal themselves to others –can no longer converse; their fall is a fall of speech” (Deen 17). In this postlapsarian landscape,speech is no longer a medium of communication and is instead a tool of power wielded by whatJohn Jones terms the “monologic Selfhood” who “both alienates himself and herself from othersand uses discursive practices to coerce others into sharing his or her point of view. Instead ofseveral points of view engaged in dialogue, one point of view is monologically maintained as theonly acceptable one, and all others are suppressed.” (16). The felicitous result of this monologicspeech-act is the establishment of a social institution which “presents and maintains a singlemonolgic viewpoint as a consolidation of abstract, single consciousness, and... then forces eachindividual member of that institution to deliver the same monologue” (16).This dynamic reflects what Esterhammer characterizes as “Blake's increasinglyself-conscious awareness of creation as, essentially, a speech act” (191). In Genesis, the worldcomes into being through the Word, is summoned forth through a series of ideal performatives inwhich the naming of a thing (“God said, let there be light”) leads to its immediate manifestation25(“and there was light”). However, for Blake, this creative process is not ex-nihilo, butinterpersonal, and requires the constant negotiation of an intersubjective language-world. Theimage of the solitary Creator-God, creating worlds from the void, is overwhelmingly negative inBlakean mythology, associated as it is with the demiurgic power of Urizen, and its very attemptat an extra-social phenomenological performative is an act of tyranny, an attempt to force theworld to conform to one series of inflexible, self-identical labels: “One King, One God, OneLaw.” As such, the role of the visionary poet is not to reiterate the Urizenic error and set her orhimself up as a private god of their own poetic microcosm, but to work within the communalbody of the language-world to deconstruct and refashion it, “Striving with Systems to deliverIndividuals from those Systems” (653). As Esterhammer observes, Blake recognizes that“[w]hile it is possible for new speech acts to supercede the old, there seems to be an ultimateawareness that our language cannot supercede the forms of sociopolitical discourse altogether;that performative utterance, as we know it, derives its power from convention and consensus;that a new vision must come to terms with an old language” (213).The challenge, then, lies in pointing the way towards a new model of convention andconsensus that is not merely a novel reiteration of the old Urizenic structure. To this end, Blakespends much of his work studying the manner in which eschatological speech acts in asociopolitical setting, and assessing the conditions of its felicity and infelicity. The purposebehind Blake's use of eschatological speech is two fold. First, it attempts to deconstruct themanner in which conventional modes of apocalyptic address act to reinforce sociopolitical powerstructures and ideological constructs. Secondly, it points towards a mode of eschatologicalspeech whose felicitous reception would prove genuinely transformative. This is not simply amatter of advancing an alternative theological system that Blake finds more appealing.26Conventional religious terms become profoundly problematic in an age in which the Divine isnot taken to signify a solidarity with the marginal and oppressed, but instead, as Blake puts it,“God is only an allegory for Kings & nothing else” (659). In the Austinian model ofperformative language, any speech act relies for its potential felicity on an interpretivecommunity that can understand and act on its imperative. For Blake's work to be anything otherthan the “Voice of one, calling in the wilderness,” or the gibberings of an ecstatic madman orholy fool as Blake has often been impugned, both in his time and ours, it needs to point towardsan interpretive community in which it can be comprehended and acted upon, two processeswhich Blake held to be near synonymous (“Truth can never be told so as to be understood andnot believ'd” (Blake 38)). As we have previously argued, this interpretative community shouldnot be construed as a new religious or political institution, a First Church of St. William Blake asit were, but rests in changing the very conditions of linguistic felicity from the fallen model ofmonologic authoritarianism which works to foreclose all political, interpersonal, andepistemological possibilities unforeseen by normative, hegemonic social structures. In this way,Blake's eschatological aspirations dovetail with Judith Butler's contention that culture, even at it'smost fundamental ontological and epistemological level (she famously makes this argumentabout gender, but Blake would apply it to all of our ontological assumptions) relies on itscontinual performance by its members in order to sustain itself, an act which is in many waysperformed unconsciously, as “[t]he tacit collective agreement to perform, produce, and sustaindiscrete and polar genders as cultural fictions is obscured by the credibility of its ownproduction.” (Butler 523). As such, while the individual performance of specific actions arerequired for upholding the collective social fiction, “[t]here are social contexts and conventionswithin which certain acts not only become possible but become conceivable as acts at all.”27Consequentially, “[t]he transformation of social relations becomes a matter, then, oftransforming hegemonic social conditions rather than the individual acts that are spawned bythose conditions” (Butler 526). For both Blake and Butler, social change necessitates thetransformation of the conditions of felicity, the conventions, either explicit or hidden, by whichspeech is not only successful but even comprehensible.In light of this, Blake places careful emphasis on the social context in which eschatologicalutterances act. Blakean eschatological performatives are distinguished by their placement withinthe larger narrative or lyrical context of Blake's poetic works. While traditional works ofapocalyptic writing, and the contemporary writings that emulated them, presented theireschatological appeal as a direct address to the reader, using a framing narrative primarily as away of establishing the prophetic authority of the alleged author, Blake embeds his apocalypticproclamations in mythopoetic narratives and lyrical character studies. We are not presented witha remote, universally authoritative “word of God,” but instead each prophetic pronouncement islinked to a distinct character and has a specific place and function within the narrative. The“Song of Liberty,” for example, which serves as the centrepiece of America, and functionsmagnificently as a poem in its own right, is not a stand-alone prophetic proclamation, but adecisive move in the battle between Orc, the spirit of Revolution, and Albion's Angel, orguardian spirit (depicted in an earlier draft as a demonic caricature of George the Third). Thisperformative duel, an epic, mythologized version of Skaldic flyting or a hip hop freestyle battle,has dramatic, transformative effects on the world of the poem, the nature of which will beexamined in greater detail presently. The eschatological performative, and the sociopoliticalperformatives that are marshalled in opposition to its apocalyptic power, have clear diegeticfunction within the poem. Each has a felicity or an infelicity (or some measure of both) within28the text itself, and can be examined as a self-contained literary performative. However, itsimultaneously has an extra-diegetic effect as well. It is a prophetic appeal to the reader, as wellas a narrative event in the poem, and works to expose both the prevalent conditions ofperformative felicity in the fallen world, and to model those of the eschatological speech-act. Assuch, the degree of felicity or infelicity of the performative in the poem itself acts as a lensthrough which we can examine the potential extra-diegetic effect of the speech-act. If thiseschatological performative is infelicitious, as it so frequently is, an examination of its diegeticfailure can give an idea of the potential terms of its extra-diegetic felicity.This failure of the eschatological performative is a central concern of Blake's earlyilluminated work. As Esterhammer points out, “Experience... is a state of failed speech acts”(136). The Songs of Experience opens with a rousing call to the Earth by a prophetic “Bard” toshake off its state of spiritual slumber and emerge renewed from the grave of its Selfhood. “OEarth O Earth return!” the Bard entreats, “Arise from out the dewy grass; night is worn,/ and themorn/ Rises from the slumberous mass.” However, this entreaty proves woefully ineffectual, asin the accompanying “Earth's Reply,” the personified planet remains in a state of darkness andimprisonment: “Earth rais'd up her head./ From darkness dread and drear. Her light fled;/ Stonydread!/ And her locks covered with grey despair.” Esterhammer writes in her analysis of thepoem: “In this world of Experience, even inspired language fails to provide a reliable transitionbetween writing and action; ironically it is when the Bard takes on a self-consciously propheticrole and seeks to convey an urgent message that structures of dialogue and referentiality begin tofail, making communication difficult and unreliable” (141). While in Innocence there is a happyidentity between sign and signifier, speaker and audience (“I a Child and Thou a Lamb/ We areboth called by his name”) which guarantees near-perfect felicitous addresses, in Experience this29identity breaks down. While we recognize the Voice of the Bard as a performative demand, (“OEarth O Earth return!”), it becomes very difficult to discern what an appropriate perlocutionaryresponse would be. The terms of the request itself are paradoxical, as the Bard demands the Earthto “Arise from out the dewy grass,” essentially asking the Earth to arise from the Earth. Thisbaffling request can be in part explained by the slippage of addressee between the Earth and the“Lapsed Soul,” whose spiritual nature can presumably allow for such an act ofself-transcendence, but the ambiguity still renders the utterance vague and abstract. As Bloomwrites, “What the Bard urges is what ought to be, but Earth can no more arise ‘from out’ thegrass than man's ‘lapsed soul’ can rise from the 'slumberous mass' of his body” (131).The result of this impossible request is not only a failure but also the absolute inversion ofthe illocutionary goals of the Bard's utterance. The Earth gazes up, and is petrified by horror anddespair. The reasons for this failure are attributed in the poem to the prohibitive presence of “thefather of ancient men”:Prison'd on watry shoreStarry jealousy does keep my denCold and HoarWeeping o'erI hear the father of ancient menSelfish father of menCruel selfish fearCan delightChain'd in nightThe virgins of youth and morning bear. (18)This Urizenic patriarchal jailer represents the sociopolitical linguistic context that negates theBard's eschatological utterance. It is our introduction to the world of Experience, a sinisterlandscape of political power, sexual coercion, and priestly authority in which speech-acts are notjoyful acts of shared creation, as in Innocence, but exercises in institutional control and personalpower. In the world of Experience, as John Jones writes, “power is built and maintained by30social institutions through monologic, self-closed discourse. As abstract entities that cannot beaddressed, they issue laws governing ordinary human conduct, enforce them strictly, and refuseto respond to questions about their laws” (46). Language, in this context, is a power game, amethod of asserting dominance and establishing authoritarian pedigree. Seen from thisperspective, the Urizenic principle is less the outward manifestations of authority as encounteredin the institutional power of Church and State, and more the underlying interpretive communitythat allows the pronouncements of these institutions to be socially effective, and whichdisempowers competing claims of authority. This Urizenic model of language dramatizes ofsome of the more sinister implications of performative theory, that as the power of language issocially constructed, it is consequentially capable of being wielded successfully solely by thosealready socially empowered.Stanley Fish, in his essay “Interpreting the Variorum” defines interpretive communities as“made up of those who share interpretive strategies not for reading (in the conventional sense)but for writing texts, for constituting their properties and assigning their intentions. In otherwords, these strategies exist prior to the act of reading and therefore determine what is readrather than, as is assumed, the other way around” (483). While Fish employs this concept inorder to articulate a polysemous, reader-responsive approach to literature, in which the “onlystability, then, inheres in the fact that interpretive strategies are always being deployed, and thatmeans that communication is a much more chancy affair than we are accustomed to think it”(484), a more disquieting authoritarian implication lurks under this free-flow of interpretivestrategies. Fish's first example of an interpretive community is contained in St. Augustine's “ruleof faith,” “which is, of course, a rule of interpretation” (483). This rule postulates that“everything within Scripture, and indeed in the world when properly read, points to (bears the31meaning of) God's love for us and our answering responsibility to love our fellow creatures forHis sake. If only you should come upon something which does not at first appear to bear thismeaning... you are then to take it 'to be figurative' and proceed to scrutinize it 'until aninterpretation contributing to the reign of charity is produced.'” Fish sees this as “both astipulation of what meaning is and a set of directions for finding it, which is of course a set ofdirections – of interpretive strategies – for making it, that is for the endless reproduction of thesame text” (483, emphasis mine). What Fish fails to account for, however, is that the inextricableintersection between the Augustinian interpretive model and the institutional apparatus of theChurch which Augustine was instrumental in solidifying. One of the practical ramifications ofthe Augustinian exegetical strategy was to suppress the varied voices of the Biblical writers,whose identification, both then and now, has been crucial for articulating alternative approachesto Scripture and Christianity as a whole, into a single, univocal proclamation of the ecclesiasticalCity of God. In other words, the “endless reproduction of the same text” is simultaneously theendless reproduction of the institution that derives its authority from a predetermined reading ofthat text, and the consequent delegitimization of any competing interpretations, labelling thesereadings either incomprehensible or heretical. More disquietingly, by locating the meaning oftexts entirely outside of themselves, Fish leaves little room for the possibility of a work orutterance to disrupt the consensus of the interpretive community, leaving the possibility ofchange solely in the hands of a nebulous process in which “[i]nterpretive communities growlarger and decline, and individuals move from one to another”(484), though how precisely thisprocess occurs remains unclear.Bourdieu makes this connection between interpretive communities and authoritativestructures explicit, positing institutional sanction as the central (or, indeed, sole) condition of32performative felicity. In Bourdieu's critique of Austin's attempts to find “in discourse itself... thekeys to the efficacy of speech,” he writes: “By trying to understand the power of linguisticmanifestations linguistically, by looking at language for the principle underlying the logic andeffectiveness of the language of institutions, one forgets that authority comes from outside…Language at most represents this authority, manifests and symbolizes it” (109). Felicity, then,depends entirely on the authority of the speaker, or in his or her recognized right to legitimatelyrepresent that authority. Language in this view is reduced to the rote reinscription of power, inwhich dissenting voices are automatically and decisively excluded from effectively operating inthe public sphere.While the absolutism implicit in this position has been challenged by critics, most notably(for our purposes at least) by Judith Butler, who questions the sharp division between legitimateand illegitimate authority and suggests that there are points in which an utterance “calls intoquestion the established grounds of legitimacy, where the utterance, in fact, performativelyproduces a shift in legitimacy as an effect of the utterance itself” (147), a vital point which wewill be returning to presently, the fact remains that this seemingly absolute dependence ofperformative language on institutional sanction to be felicitous, or even comprehensible, is anaccurate description of the daunting challenges faced by the Blakean visionary prophet whentrying to effect change in the postlapsarian world. The overcoming of the profoundepistemological closure which is for Blake the fundamental goal of eschatological speechbecomes exceedingly difficult when the language-world which the speaker is trying to transformis not only deeply invested in maintaining this closure, but in fact relies on it in order to defineeven a basic sense of self identity. As Butler observes, “to become a subject means to besubjected to a set of implicit and explicit norms that govern the kind of speech that will be33legible as the speech of a subject” (133). To violate these conventions is not only to riskincomprehensibility, but “to risk one’s status as a subject. To embody the norms that governspeakability in one's speech is to consummate one's status as a subject of speech. 'Impossiblespeech' would be precisely the ramblings of the asocial, the rantings of the 'psychotic' that therules which govern the domain of speakability produce, and by which they are continuallyhaunted” (133; emphasis in original). This spectre of psychosis, which labels the speaker notonly as incoherent, but as a subject definitionally incapable of producing legible speech, isparticularly resonant when discussing Blake, whose only public exhibition was lambasted bycritic Robert Hunt as "the ebullitions of a distempered brain" produced by "an unfortunatelunatic" (cited in Frye 122). To attempt the “impossible” performative of the eschatologicalutterance is not only to risk incoherency, but threatens to banish the speaker entirely from therealm of the speakable. “Vision,” Esterhammer observes, “is possible within the world ofexperience, yet discontinuous with that world” (144).However, this is not to characterize the Bard's address as a well meaning but ultimatelyquixotic attempt to invoke a visionary reality which is ultimately incommensurate with theworld's “dull round,” as many of Blake's critics, such as Erdman, Grant and Gleckner have done,often conflating the struggles of the Bard to express his vision in the world of Experience withBlake's own prophetic despair. Insufficient attention has been paid to how the illocutionaryfailure of the utterance is built into the Bard's speech itself. Towards the end of his address, theBard sings “Turn away no more/ Why wilt thou turn away?” apparently presupposing that hisdemand will fail, that his audience will “turn away” from his prophetic call for spiritualtransformation. While Jones argues that this is an indication of the Bard's commitment to adialogic model of discourse, stating that “the Bard incorporates the Earth's silent rejection as an34interruptive response to his own discourse” (53), the Bard's failure to engage with the genuinespoken dialogue found in the “Earth's Response” and his implication that the fallen state of theEarth is due to her own intransigent will rather than the oppressive power of the “selfish Fatherof Men,” as the Earth herself claims, renders this reading somewhat unconvincing. Instead, thismove seems to indicate a shift in genre from eschatological performative to lament, a form ofspeech long recognized by Blake critics as characteristic of the postlapsarian state. Deen gives“lament” pride of place in his catalogue of characteristically Fallen modes of speech, a list whichincludes “lament, lie, dissimulation, self-deceit, amnesia, paramnesia, [and the] struggle for ruleand dominance” (17). The genre of lament takes the failure of the address as one of itsconstitutive elements. Francis Landy, discussing the Biblical use of laments, writes, “Thediscourse attempts to explain, illustrate, and thus mitigate the catastrophe, to house it in afamiliar literary framework; it must also communicate its own inadequacy. Its success, in a sense,depends upon its failure” (329). However, while Landy argues that the Biblical lament uses thisfailure to point to the necessity of renewal, Blake's use of the genre points to a far more insidiouspossibility, that the failure inherent in the lament can be used to foreclose the very possibilitiesfor transformation it seems to suggest.The Book of Urizen, Blake's mythopoetic origin story of the Sovereign Self, is primarilyconcerned with Urizen's attempt to deny the destabilizing diversity of Being through theimposition of a single, normative standard of universal judgement, “One command, one joy, onedesire/ One curse, one weight one measure/ One King, one God, one Law.” Key to this Urizenicsystem of control, however, is the constitutional inability of living beings to successfully submitto this standard, even if they were willing to do so. As Urizen realizes to his horror, “no flesh norspirit could keep/ His iron laws one moment” (256). Jones writes, “[b]ecause Urizen's laws35represent his own, singular perspective, others cannot possibly live in accordance to them…Urizen's sons and daughters are cursed because his iron law enforces his perspective and forbidsall dialogue that would allow all perspectives to flourish” (109). However, rather than negatingthe power of Urizen's laws, this failure of the system gives birth to a whole regulatory body oflaws and religious prohibitions which exploit the guilt and shame caused by the failure to live upto Urizenic standards of purity: “drawing out from his sorrowing soul/ The dungeon-like heavendividing/ Where ever the footsteps of Urizen/ Walked over the cities in sorrow/ Till a Web darkand cold, throughout all/ The tormented elements stretch'd... And all call'd it, the Net ofReligion” (Blake 256-257). In short, the failure of the Urizenic eschatological demand, theyearning for a salvation based on a system of purity and unity, leads to the creation andenforcement of an oppressive sociopolitical system, one which uses the very incommensurabilityof the apocalyptic utterance with the lived realities of human life as a tool of coercion andcontrol.There is certainly an immediate resemblance between the Bard and the Urizenic “Father ofMen.” Several critics have highlighted the uncomfortable authoritarian connotations associatedwith the Bard's claim of divine inspiration. As Esterhammer writes, “While the Bard explicitlyclaims to have heard the Holy Word, his implicit claim is that he shares the perspective of God inParadise Lost… who was for Blake a figure of tyrannical authority… The Bard's is the first ofmany voices in Experience which derive their power from ideology” (142). While critics such asEsterhammer, Bloom, and Leader have seen these links as evidence of the contamination theBard's visionary proclamation with the authoritarian reality of Experience, which corrupts theBard's address and renders it ineffectual, a closer examination of the Biblical context from whichthis allusion derives suggests that the Bard may not be the victim of authority, but its agent. “The36Holy Word/ Which walked among the ancient trees” is an allusion to Genesis 3:8, in whichAdam and Eve, having recently eaten of the Tree of Knowledge, “heard the voice of the LordGod walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” This divine voice does not offer redemption,but condemnation, demanding, “Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree,whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” (Genesis 3:11), an accusation thatculminates in the expulsion of Eve and Adam from the Garden, and the beginning of humanity'spostlapsarian condition. Rather than being, as Henry Summerfield claims, “inspired by God theSon”(409) to incite the Earth to recover her unfallen state, the Bard is linked to the accusatoryvoice that barred humanity from Paradise in the first place. The Holy Word, then, from which theBard derives his authority appears identical to the “father of jealousy” whose prohibitivepresence inhibits the Earth's redemption. The Bard's dismal weeping which punctuates his lament(“Calling the lapsed soul/ And weeping in the evening dew”) has a striking resemblance to theself-pitying moaning of Urizen (“Urizen… emerged his leprous head from out his holy shrine,his tears in deluge piteous/ Falling into the deep sublime… Weeping in dismal howling woe hedark descended howling” (57).The slippage between these two figures becomes more compelling when we observe that theEarth herself also makes this connection. While it is often taken for granted in criticaldiscussions of the poems that the “Father of the ancient men” is a distinct third character in thenarrative whose silent and prohibitive influence results in the failure of the Bard's call toredemption, this assumption is not at all a given. A direct, narrative reading of the two poemssees the Bard, from an at least metaphorically elevated position, extorting the Earth to “Arise” tohis celestial state, represented visually in the print by a supine man on an astral couch,surrounded by stars. In response to this, the Earth does in fact raise her head, presumably in37anticipation of the longed-for assent, and finds herself confronting with horror the petrificpresence of the “Selfish father of men,” who she than proceeds to address for the bulk of thepoem. Jones notes the Earth's conflation of the two figures, but takes it for granted that the Earthis “mistakenly identifying his voice as that of the Father” (55, emphasis mine). Rather thanimmediately presuming the Earth is mistaken (an assumption that somewhat undermines Jones'highlighting of the “dialogic” elements of the poem), it seems worthwhile to at least entertain thepossible validity of the Earth's perceptions: that the Bard and this Urizenic Yahweh figure are infact one and the same, or at least that the Bard is acting as the mouthpiece of Urizen, and that theEarth, in naming conditions for a truly felicitous eschatological address, is decrying theoppressive bid for control being made in the dissembling name of apocalyptic freedom.Seen in light of this, the Bard's address bears a striking resemblance to Urizen's ownauthoritarian proclamations. Like Urizen, the Bard attempts to impose an idealized self on hislistener, a transcendent, spiritualized subject dwelling in an abstracted heaven, then lambasts theEarth for failing to conform to this standard. The performativity of the Bard's address rests less inthe specific actions he wishes the Earth to perform, which are after all vague and abstract, andmore in its creation of a specific subject, the androgyne celestial being lounging on a couch ofclouds, and then authoritatively declaring it to be the only legitimate subject. This process iswhat Butler refers to as “foreclosure,” a process by which “[t]he individual is constituted(interpellated) in language through a selective process in which the terms of legible andintelligible subjecthood are regulated.” This occurs through “a kind of unofficial censorship orprimary restriction in speech that constitutes the possibility of agency in speech” (41). Certainly,the outcome of the Bard's address is quite precisely to rob the Earth of agential power. Ratherthan “aris[ing] from the dewy grass” in a transcendent gesture of redemption, the Earth is38literally petrified by a “Stony dread” that accompanies her raising her head to hear the Bard'saddress. Rather than her “fallen fallen light” renewing, instead “her light fled” and she findsherself seized by a terrible cold. Incapable of embodying the eschatological self created by theBard, the Earth finds herself unable to act whatsoever, and is consequentially delivered into thehands of the restrictive socio-political system from which the Bard is ostensibly liberating her.Her inability to exercise the sovereign spiritual power demanded by the Bard, to “control thestarry pole” (72) and so lift herself up by her spiritual bootstraps, immediately classifies her as anillegitimate self whose unruly subjectivity must be “charter'd” and regulated by the “heavychain” of institutional authority. As Butler puts it, “the discourse of freedom in which one makesthe claim of emancipation suppresses the very energies it purports to unleash” (136). The factthat the self-actualized sovereign self is an impossible fiction does not lessen its effectiveness asa tool of power. Butler observes that “the difficulty in describing power as a sovereign formation,however, in no way precludes fantasizing or figuring power in precisely that way; to the contrary,the historical loss of the sovereign organization of power appears to occasion the fantasy of itsreturn” (78), a return which inevitably results in the reinscription of regulatory state authority.However, while the Bard's prescription of an idealized self works to foreclose the Earth'spossibilities of agency, the Earth attempts to resist this foreclosure through a series of questionswhich, in a fashion typical of the Songs of Experience, receive no answers. She sings:Does spring hide its joyWhen buds and blossoms grow?Does the sowerSow by night?Or the plowman in darkness plow?The Earth's address evokes Isaiah 28, in which the prophet explains the multiplicity of strategiesat play in the Divine work of redemption, stating “Doth the plowman plow all day to sow? Doth39he open and break the clods of his ground? When he hath made plain the face thereof, doth henot cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cummin, and cast in the principal wheat and theappointed barely and the rye in their place? For his God doth instruct him to discretion, and dothteach him.” Implicit in this allusion is a criticism of the generic nature of the Bard's address, itsmodel of eschatological transcendence that results in an erasure of the subject's individuality.Isaiah argues for the intimate specificity of God's redemptive act, the particular care for theontological uniqueness of the individual in the “strange work” of Divine salvation: “For thefitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument, neither is a cart wheel turned about upon thecummin; but the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod” (Isaiah 28:27). Ineffect, the Earth responds to the Bard's hectoring and alienating call with an alternative vision ofeschatological liberation, one dependent on her own creative ontological self-expression. Theplaintive litany of unanswered questions points to a radically different model of redemption thanthe Bard's call for transcendence. The Earth's evocative images contrast strikingly with thelanguage of the Bard, who addresses the Earth in the near-intangible or celestial imagery of light,stars, and dew. The Earth, on the other hand, speaks in the concrete, material language offlowering and harvest. Both metaphors await an eschatological dawn for their fulfilment, butwhile the Bard's imagery rests on an assent from the terrestrial to the heavenly realms, the Earth'slocates the site of redemption in the “minute particulars” of earthly life, specifically in eroticliberation. At the core of the Earth's salvific yearning is the release of “Free Love in bondagebound,” the liberation of the “Virgins of youth and mourning” from the shackles of their imposedvirginity. The longed-for Day of the Lord is not a transcendence of material life, but itsfulfilment.More than its materiality, what is striking about the Earth's model of salvation is its40dependency on her unique ontological self-expression. Salvation for the Earth does not requirethe negation of her lived experience, but rather its articulation and celebration. The earth'sredemption appears synonymous with her emergence as a legible subject, a subjectivity currently“chained in night” by sexual taboo and the “cruel Jealous selfish fear” that hypocriticallyattempts to regulate and control desire, especially female, by banishing it from public discourseand replacing the possibility of female sexuality with the negating, and regulatory, subject-labelof “virgin.” In giving voice to this inadmissable subject, the erotic, desiring woman, the Earthcounteracts the impossibility of the Bard's idealized subject with an “impossible” subjectivity ofher own, a self whose impossibility stems from her incommensurability with the prevailingsocial consensus of what constitutes a subject. This speech makes visible what Butler calls “thealterity within the norm” that the norm struggles to suppress, a potentially radical act whichexposes how “that norm is predicated on the exclusion of the one who speaks, and whose speechcalls into question the foundation of the universal itself” (91).This exposure of the “alterity within the norm”, and the consequent threat to normativestructures which this alterity represents, is central to what Butler refers to as the“insurrectionary” capacity of the performative. It is also at the heart of Blake's conception of theApocalyptic potential of language. Blake defines the postlapsarian state as the neurotic attempt toimpose a “self clos'd, self-repelling” Selfhood on a dynamic, eternal creation, one pathologicallyobsessed with patrolling the boundaries of the self by aggressively rejecting the possibility ofalternative subjectivities. The radical expansion of perception which characterizes theApocalypse, in which “the whole creation will be consumed, and appear infinite and holy,whereas it now appears finite and corrupt” (188), can therefore be characterized as a giving voiceto these suppressed voices, worldviews, and epistemologies in such a way that the Urizenic41Selfhood's monopolistic claim to legitimacy, upon which its entire identity rests, is threatened orannulled. Discursively, this requires a rejection of a monologic mode of address that reinforcesthe pretensions of the Sovereign Self and an embrace instead of dialogic speech that embraces amore fluid notion of identity. As Jones writes, this linguistic “self-annihilation” requires “aradical interchange between the contraries of addresser and addressee, one that removes thespeaker as the univocal authority of his or her discourse and infuses it with other voices andperspectives. Through self-annihilation, a speaker acknowledges the validity of other viewpointsand resists his or her tendency to assert his or her perspective as the only possible truth” (18).Blake attempts to accomplish this through the introduction in his work of a dizzying array ofalternative subjectivities that threaten to overwhelm the reader through a kaleidoscopic portrayalof the myriad possibilities of Being. Perhaps the most remarkable expression of this themeoccurs in the Visions of the Daughters of Albion, in which the protagonist, Oothoon, rhapsodizes:Does the whale worship at thy footsteps as does the hungry dog?Or does he scent the mountain prey, because the mountains wideDraw in the ocean? Does his eye discern the flying cloudAs the raven's eye? Or does he measure the expanse like the vulture?… Does not the eagle scorn the earth and despise the treasures beneathBut the mole knoweth what is there, and the worm shall tell it thee.Does not the worm erect a pillar in the mouldering churchyard?And a palace of eternity in the jaws of the hungry graveOver his porch these words are written. Take thy bliss O Man!And sweet shall be thy taste and sweet thy infant joys renew. (203-204)42Here, any concept of a hierarchy of subjects and submission of individuals to a regulatingstandard of value is entirely rejected in favour of an inviolable right to ontologicalself-expression, referred to Blake as “bliss.” At the core of this is a commitment to hermeneuticand epistemological plurality, the right to interpret the world in radically different ways, with nosingle reading being privileged. While the raven and eagle's eyes “discern the flying cloud” andfind joy in the expanse of the heavens, the worm's comparatively limited senses, confinedallegorically to a Tartarean world of darkness and death, are not degraded in relation to theeagle's lofty vision but instead open up a world of sensory delight unimagined by his brethren,finding “a palace of eternity in the jaws of the hungry grave.” Each voice has an absolute claimto legitimacy, and as such they all are radically incommensurate with one another andunassimilable into an abstract, corporate salvation dependant on submission to a normative bodyof religious or secular authority. As Oothoon sings in defiance to Urizen, “How can one joyabsorb another? Are not different joys Holy, eternal, infinite? and each joy is a Love.” This iscentral to what Blake means when he declares that “Everything that lives is Holy”: every livingthing, be they human, animal, or even fictional, has the right, in Butler's terms, to “speak withinand as the universal” (91), to speak, as it were, as the Voice of God. Blake vigorously resists themonopoly on divinity that characterizes the orthodox Christian emphasis on the sole sovereigntyof God , answering the scandalized query of “Is not God alone the prolific?” by declaring that“God only Acts & Is, in existing beings or Men” (40). Consequentially, all living beings have theright, as Sari Makdisi eloquently puts it, “to participate in an infinite being in common calledGod... to affirm life as being in common, life as the making of that 'divine body' of which 'we arehis members'”(266).Makdisi's definition of the Blakean God as “an infinite being in common” points to a43paradoxical tension at the heart of Blake's eschatological aspirations. While fiercely resisting thecoercive models of community consensus imposed by civic and religious authorities, henevertheless insists on the centrality of a life “in common.” As Richard Sha writes, “Blakeequates self-annihilation with a Christian intensification of mutuality, not a doing away with it”(47). The radical right to subjective self-expression does not necessitate a turning inwardstowards a private, mystical reverie, as Blake criticism of the Frye school often suggests, butrather marks the inauguration of a model of community in which the fundamental legitimacy ofall other subjects is a foundational and inalienable principle, what Christopher Hobson calls a“cooperative commonwealth,” a “self-managing society” based on “collective love and mutualforgiveness” (138). The recognition of this legitimacy is not simply a liberal tolerance that seeksto erase difference by imagining a neutral public sphere. As Hobson notes, Blake erodes thedistinction between public and private by applying “what today would be called a 'private sphere'vocabulary of sexual reciprocity, personal forgiveness, and the like to such 'public sphere'matters as community in property” (137-138). Instead, it rests on the embrace of the Other'smembership in a shared Divine Body, in which their ineluctable otherness paradoxically formsthe basis of a more expansive personal identity as part of this communal self, an identity that isrealized and maintained through dialogue. Deen terms this “identity-as-community” andobserves that “conscious turning back to the source implies that the source has become other – aperson not one's-self. Parent, lover, friend, or God, the other is a figure with whom the agent orspeaker in the poem identifies himself – but only through a kind of dialogue, so that turning backto the source is turning back to the seed of community… [one] achieves fullidentity-as-community in conversation: speaking to another as to the image of God” (7). Identity,society, and even reality are therefore other-dependent, reliant on a collaborative, co-creative44discourse in which “As the breath of the Almighty, so are the words of man to man/ In great warsof Eternity, in fury of poetic inspiration,/ To build the Universe stupendous” (Blake 580-81).This vision of community requires a constant renegotiation of identity, a perpetual troubling ofthe entrenched, bounded selfhoods that attempt to delimit and control discursive possibilities toconform to their own (necessarily limited) epistemologies and ethics. This process, referred to byBlake in his later work as “the Forgiveness of Sins which is Self Annihilation,” is seen by Blaketo be the “Covenant of Jehovah,” the fundamental social principle that sustains the ideal humancommunity of Jerusalem, and is described in strange and vivid detail in the final Apocalypticvision of Jerusalem: “Circumscribing and Circumcising the excrementious/ Husk & Coveringinto vacuum evaporating revealing the lineaments of Man/ Driving outward the Body of Death inan Eternal Death and Resurrection” (257). This “Eternal Death and Resurrection,” which is tosay a model of society based on a fluid, expansive inclusivity, resonates with Butler's concept ofan “anticipated universality,” a vision of a universal society “that has yet to articulated, defyingthe conventions that govern our anticipatory imaginings”( 90-91). This is not to be taken as aPlatonic idealism, but instead as a commitment to a continual challenging of the “establishedconventions of universality,” a vigorous, dynamic model of the universal “whose articulationswill only follow, if they do, from a contestation of universality at its already imagined borders”(91).However, it is crucial to recognize the gap between this ideal dialogic society and itsgenuine establishment. As John Mee reminds us, this “vision of 'mutual interchange' does notinaugurate a conversable world, not in any immediate sense anyway” (138), cautioning that“imagining this conversational plenitude should [not] be mistaken for its achievement” (139).Damrosh's warning against “rhapsodizing about Blake's apocalyptic breakthrough as if it were45easily attained” is particularly apposite in this case, in which the Earth's plaintive protest goesunheard and unanswered, and the reader is launched instead into the hostile world of Experience.While the Earth's address may help to articulate the conditions of a felicitous eschatologicalperformative, it is decisively infelicitous within both the diegetic context of the poem and thelarger setting of the Songs. Clearly, the mere invocation of the “alterity within the norm” is notenough to overcome the vast institutional and epistemological constructs that constitute thenormative structures of the fallen world. Instead, a more direct engagement with these principlesas they are manifested socially, politically, and philosophically is required, through a complexseries of rhetorical strategies that Blake calls “Mental Fight.” We will examine these strategies inthe following chapter through the lens of Blake's political prophecy, “America.”46Chapter Three“The Lion and Wolf Shall Cease”: The Politics of Eschatological Speech in Blake’s AmericaBlake's Jerusalem, his eschatological fulfilment of the Kingdom of Heaven, is ultimately alinguistic compact, a radical reimagining of the manner in which speech, authority, andlegitimacy operate within a social sphere. It is rooted in an ontology that sees true identity asarising through a communal interrelation and troubles the borders of bounded individualselfhood. In Jerusalem, Los explains that “When in Eternity Man converses with Man they enter/Into each others' Bosom (which are universes of delight)/ In Mutual interchange” (Blake 246).Essick notes about this passage, “In our world, the closest we can come to such interchanges isthrough language, for only words can flow freely back and forth between us, entering into andbuilding our consciousness of self and of other selves” (219). In this view, the corporate body ofChrist, “Imagination, or the Human Eternal Body in every man” (Blake 663) is not a fixed,pre-existent condition of undifferentiated unity, but instead is formed and reformed through themedium of an interdependent linguistic community, a “communal body [which] preserves thestructure of the prepositions defining its linguistic outline, an articulated unity in which themembers retain their distinct identities” (Essick 220). This linguistic body of Jerusalem issustained by an ethics of radical hospitality, a perpetual openness to “the stranger who shattersthe horizon of the familiar” (Caputo 42), what Essick characterizes as a “phenomenological viewof language with transactional events rather than difference as its essence” (229) in which “anyattempt to organize this body politic according to abstract, differential schema is tantamount todismemberment” (220).This “mutual interchange” necessitates a communitarian model of imagination, one that47stresses its empathic function. The philosopher Martin Buber calls this function “imagining thereal,” an empathetic encounter with the unique character of the individual. It is “not a looking atthe other, but a bold swinging – demanding the most intensive stirring of one's being – into thelife of the other” (81). This visionary leap into the Other, which is essential to what Buber calls“genuine dialogue,” is an imaginative engagement with “the particular real person who confrontsme, whom I can attempt to make present to myself just in this way, and not otherwise, in hiswholeness, unity, and uniqueness, and with his dynamic centre which realizes all these thingsever anew” (81). In Blakean terms, it is an entrance into the bosom of the Other (the dynamiccentre which is a “universe of delight”) facilitated by one's Emanation (the expressive spiritwhose loss, one recalls, corresponds with the universal Fall). This process is made possible bythe ontological assumption, shared by Blake and Buber, that human life, in so far as it can becalled properly human, is fundamentally interdependent, what Buber calls “interhuman,” as“Man exists anthropologically not in his isolation, but in the completeness of relation betweenman and man; what humanity is can be properly grasped only in vital reciprocity” (Buber 69).For both thinkers this essential nature is divine as well as human, or rather it is divinised in thevery depths of its humanity. Much as Blake professes that “God only exists & Acts in livingbeings and Men,” Buber writes of the “primal power which has scattered itself, and still scattersitself, in all human beings in order that it may grow up in each man in the special form of thatman” (83). Dialogue, then, is simultaneously a social bond, ontological realization, and spiritualrevelation, a diffuse encounter with a God unfolding themself in the minute particulars ofcreation. This literal sanctity of life lends an additional urgency to avoiding an Urizenicimposition or absorption of the Other into one's imaginative construct of them, one that attemptsto overwrite or negate the Other's essential integrity. “Genuine conversation” Buber writes,48“means acceptance of otherness” (69). Consequentially, “the chief presupposition for the rise ofgenuine dialogue is that each should regard his partner as the very one he is. I become aware ofhim, aware that he is different, essentially different from myself, in the definite, unique waywhich is particular to him, and I accept whom I thus see, so that in full earnestness I can directwhat I say to him as the person he is” (79).The Blakean eschatological community organizes itself around these principles of mutualrecognition. And the eschatological performative is an uncompromising imperative toacknowledge and engage with the other as a necessary predicate to community membership. It is,in the words of John Caputo, “a call for being otherwise, for renewal, for a new and unruly rule,for another and more anarchic 'kingdom,' for rule of another kind, another way to be” (32). This“anarchic 'kingdom,'” what Mark Van Steenwyck calls the “unkingdom of God,” is a radicallyprecarious social order predicated on the constant troubling of the centre by a divine alterity (orrather, by an understanding of divinity that sees alterity as divine), centered around what Caputosees as the paradigmatic virtue of hospitality. He writes “Hospitality means welcoming the other,saying 'come' to the other… Hospitality in its paradigmatic sense requires putting ourselves atrisk instead of creating a closed circle of friends (the same)… [it] means to say 'come' to what wecannot see coming, to what may or may not (perhaps) be welcome, to welcome the unwelcome”(39-40). The “'come' of hospitality,” derived from the rapturous climax of the Book ofRevelation2, is the open embrace of an unknown and unprecedented future, a perilous exposureof “the serene horizon of the possible to the obscene shock of the impossible” (Caputo 42). This“commerce with the impossible” celebrated by Caputo would have resonated strongly with Blake,2 The Book of Revelation ends with an ecstatic invitation to the reader, in which the prophet announces: “And theSpirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come.” (Revelation22:17).49who after all declared “the history of all times and places, is nothing else but improbabilities andimpossibilities; what we should say, was impossible if we did not see it always before our eyes,”(235) a declaration which, as Saree Makdisi observes, “preserves the hope of an as yetunimaginable history of freedom” (15). That this history is unimaginable is precisely whatinvites an imaginative participation in its realization (or rather, creation). “What is now proved,”Blake writes, “was once only imagined,” and it is this creative commitment to theever-expanding horizons of existence that constitutes the foundation of the Blakeaneschatological community.However, it is insufficient merely to articulate the conditions of ideal discourse. As canbe seen in the infelicitous apocalyptic speech of the Bard and the Earth in Songs of Experience,eschatological language is constantly confronted with the presence of a hegemonic, authoritarianspeech-community which seeks to foreclose disruptive possibilities by legislating a single,normative model of existence, what Caputo calls “the confessional orthodoxies [who] seek tohead off the event, not to welcome but to domesticate it, to fence in [its] anarchic and aphoristicenergy” (50), symbolized in Blake's work by the Urizenic Selfhood. In order to prevent itsautomatic absorption into dominant narratives of authoritarian control and ineffectual longing,eschatological language must not only celebrate the ideal community of Jerusalem, but confrontand expose what Harlem civil-rights lawyer and lay theologian William Stringfellow calls the“Powers and Principalities3,” the ideological structures and values that constitute the politicaland social life of the fallen world, among which Stringfellow includes “all institutions, allideologies, all images, all movements, all corporations, all bureaucracies, all traditions, allmethods and routines, all conglomerates, all races, all nations, all idols” (78). The apotheosis of3 Derived from Paul's epistle to the Ephesians “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but againstprincipalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness inhigh places.” (Ephesians 6:12), also the epigraph to Blake's Four Zoas.50these principalities is the nation, paradigmatically personified in the Biblical figure of Babylon.Consequentially, the eschatological hope is not an “antiwordly vision” (44) but a concrete, andpolitical, confrontation with the idolatrous power structures of Babylon in the name of the idealhuman community of Jerusalem. Stringfellow writes, “A Christian lives politically within time,on the scene of the Fall, as an alien in Babylon, in the midst of apocalyptic reality.Coincidentally, a biblical person lives politically, on the identical scene, as member andsurrogate of Christ's Church, as a citizen of Jerusalem, the holy nation which is already andwhich is vouchsafed, during the eschatological event” (63). The political action of a citizen ofJerusalem entails navigating this duel citizenship: “He exposes the reign of death in Babylonwhile affirming the aspiration for new life intuitive in all human beings and inherent in allprincipalities” (63).The eschatological vision of Jerusalem, therefore, enables the substantial critique andresistance of the moribund structures of Babylon, while simultaneously articulating thepossibility of their transformation. Nicolas Williams, commenting on the role of utopianstructures in Blake's work, makes a similar point, relating the ideal state of Jerusalem to theMarxist utopia of an accomplished communism: “it is only against the utopian background of anaccomplished communism – when modes of production will have become fully humanized – thatthe critique of alienated forms of production makes sense” (22). Similarly, in Blake's vision of afully intersubjective, “hospitable” language-world, “the ideality of achieved communication isoperative… either as a visionary confirmation of the ultimate meaning of conversation or(negatively) as a critical standard against which to evaluate failed or incomplete communication.Every utterance, however, actual or imagined, must be brought to the court of the ideal speechsituation, to test whether or not a moment of Eternal Conversation has broken out in the 'ruins of51time'”(205).This dialectic between ideal and real, the erotic tension between Eternity and Time, is at thecore of the Blakean Mental Fight, the struggle for spiritual liberty trumpeted at the opening ofBlake's Milton: “I shall not cease from mental fight/ Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand/ Tillwe have built Jerusalem/ On England's green and pleasant land.” It is, in short, a highlypoliticized apocalyptic vision in which eschatological language acts as a position of resistanceagainst the foreclosure of possibilities attempted by the “powers and principalities” of normativeauthority, a polysemous series of rhetorical strategies that denounce the calcified ideologicalstructures of this world while heralding the coming of a “New Heaven and a New Earth,” whichis not an otherworldly paradise but this world, made new by the startling presence of the Otherwhose “dynamic centre...realizes all these things ever anew” (Buber 81). As Caputo writes,“What is coming is not another world but another coming of the world, another worldling of theworld, a coming otherwise. Transcendence is the insistence or the promise of the world” (Caputo52).What makes this resistance possible is the realization that the ideological andepistemological categories invoked by the powers and principalities to justify their rule are notpreexisting ontological certainties, but the tools and result of what Bourdieu would call“symbolic violence,” which he defines as “the subordinating effects on people of hiddenstructures that reproduce and maintain social domination in covert ways” (62). As Makdisiobserves, “it is precisely in accepting that what can be perceived defines what is possible, andthat what is possible defines what can be perceived, that the fall takes places, every day. The fall,in other words, does not constitute a reality. Rather, it constitutes a certain highly circumscribedontology of perception and being – a mode of perceiving which is precisely what makes reality52real to the limited forms appropriate to it” (261). The postlapsarian world sustains itself throughthe constant, ritual reinscription of its foundational principles, a fact that exposes the possibilityof their performative hijacking. Judith Butler notes that “Because the action of foreclosure doesnot take place once and for all, it must be repeated to reconsolidate its power and efficacy. Astructure only remains a structure through being reinstated as one… That language gains itstemporal life only in and through the utterances that reinvoke and restructure the conditions of itsown possibility” (139-140). Or as Blake puts it, “Error or Creation will be burned up and thenand not till then Truth or Eternity will appear. It is Burnt up the Moment Men cease to behold it”(565).The remainder of this chapter will explore Blake's application of this insight to the concretesociopolitical setting of the American Revolutionary War, which he frames in the poem Americaas a rhetorical battle against the symbolic violence of Britain's imperialist ideology. Seen throughthe lens of Butler's exploration of the insurrectionary potential of performatives, coupled withDerrida's analysis of the Declaration of Independence and Frantz Fanon's discussion of thecolonial subject, Blakean eschatological speech emerges as a potent tool for resisting hegemonicinstitutional discourse and for modelling the hospitality-oriented speech-community that Blakeholds up as the only effective answer to the authoritarian and calcifying tendencies of politicaland religious speech.America: A Prophecy is a mythopoetic account of the Revolutionary War in whichrevolutionary figures such as “Washington, Franklin, Paine, and Warren, Gates, Hancock &Green” (210) are depicted as larger-than-life demigods locked in visionary war with the “dragonform” of “Albion's wrathful prince.” America is a strange and disorienting vision of history seenthrough the eyes of prophecy. Though an atmosphere of violence hangs over the piece, from the53gory figures of the American leaders “glowing with blood from Albion’s fiery prince” (210) toAlbion's Angel's repeated call to arms, “Sound! Sound! My loud war trumpets, & alarm mythirteen Angels” (215), the decisive blow in the war is not martial, but linguistic. At the core ofAmerica is a performative duel between Orc, the Spirit of Revolution, and Albion's Angel, thePrincipality of Britain and representative of the sociopolitical structures of Imperial England. It isthis ideological war, this “mental fight,” that brings ruin to Albion's imperialistic agenda, not anact of heroic violence on the part of the “warlike men” of the Revolution. While critics such asErdman and Mee have traditionally characterized this spiritual warfare as an unqualified supportfor the American revolutionary project (albeit one that becomes complicated by what they see asBlake's subsequent disillusionment with the apocalyptic potential of revolution), Makdisi hasrecently persuasively demonstrated how uneasily Republican ideals sat with Blake's own beliefs,specifically regarding the ontological assumptions inherent in liberal democracy's lionizing ofthe sovereign individual. Makdisi writes: “the individual whose political and commercial rightsconstituted the ultimate objective of the hegemonic liberal-radical movement is profoundlydestabilized and rendered inoperative in Blake's work of the 1790's” (41). Rather than anunambiguous celebration of the American War of Independence, America can instead be read asan examination of the transformative potential of eschatological speech in a specificsociopolitical environment.At the centre of America is Orc's triumphant “Song of Liberty,” an apocalyptic ode whosefelicitous performance enacts radical change in his sociopolitical environment. The addressbegins as a pure, disembodied speech that echoes forth from the fiery, inchoate form of Orc, and,Christ-like, “shook the temple”(53). It then launches into a moving image of resurrection.The morning comes, the night decays, the watchmen leave their stations;The grave is burst, the spices shed, the linen wrapped up;54The bones of death, the cov'ring clay, the sinews shrunk and dried.Reviving shake, inspiring move, breathing! awakening!Spring like redeemed captives when their bonds & bars are burst. (53)When contrasted to the Bard's failed eschatological address in the Introduction to Experience, thedifferences are revealing. The Bard's demand is self-divisive, calling the Earth to “Arise” fromthe “slumberous mass” of its physical form in a fashion reflective of his orthodox error “ThatMan has two existing principles Viz a Body and a Soul” (Blake 181) and that salvation requiresthe liberation of the latter from the former. It entails the creation of an idealized, transcendentalsubject, a move that results in the suppression of the audience's own subjectivity and agency.Orc's utterance, on the other hand, focuses on the restoration of the colonial subject marginalizedby imperial power. Using imagery evocative of both Christ's open tomb (“the linen wrapped up”4)and the Day of Judgement, Orc links the political liberation of the colonized nation (who “springlike redeemed captives when their bonds and bars are burst”) with a bodily resurrection, theovercoming of the condition of existential death that afflicts the marginalized colonial self. Thephilosopher and revolutionary Frantz Fanon describes the process of decolonization in similarterms, writing: “Decolonization… focuses on and fundamentally alters being, and transforms thespectator crushed into a non-essential state into a privileged actor… It infuses a new rhythm,specific to a new generation of men, with a new language and a new humanity. Decolonization istruly the creation of new men” (2). This restoration and recreation of the subject, its movementfrom the marginalized, “non-essential” condition imposed upon it by religious and secularauthorities to one “captured in a virtually grandiose fashion in the spotlight of history” (Fanon 2)is an essential precursor to its emergence as an agential power.Crucially, Orc models this restored agency by claiming an authority entirely unrecognized4 In the Gospel of John, the resurrection is first witnessed in the empty tomb of Christ, in which “the napkin, thatwas about his head, [is] not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself” (John 20:7).55by the hegemonic power structures. Orc entirely lacks the Bard's self-defeating pessimism, butinstead ostentatiously claims an authority to which he has no socially recognized right. Thisself-appointed mandate dramatically demonstrates Butler's observation that “an invocation thathas no prior legitimacy can have the effect of challenging existing forms of legitimacy, breakingopen the possibility of future forms” (147). Butler uses the example of Rosa Parks’ epochalrefusal to move to the back of the bus, commenting that “in laying claim to the right for whichshe had no prior authorization, she endowed a certain authority on the act, and began theinsurrectionary process of overthrowing those established codes of legitimacy” (147). Similarly,while the Bard positions his failure as a foregone conclusion (“why wilt thou turn away?”), Orc'saddress presumes its own felicity. Echoing the signing of the Declaration of Independence, theenviably performative document which self-reflectively conjures up its own felicity throughwhat Derrida, in his seminal work of performative theory “Declarations of Independence” calls a“coup of right” (10), Orc's “Song of Liberty” presents his eschatological aspirations as a faitaccompli. As Derrida observes, this declaration “involves both constation and performance,indissociably mixed” (11), in that it both describes a purportedly existent state and, through a bitof performative sleight of hand, simultaneously establishes this state through the force of thedeclaration. These two actions happen concurrently, in what Derrida calls “the simulacrum of theinstant” (11), and depend upon each other for their felicity: “the 'good people' of America callthemselves and declare themselves independent, at the instant that they invent for themselves asigning identity. They sign in the name of the laws of Nature and in the name of God. They poseor posit their institutional laws on the foundation of natural laws and in the same coup (theinterpretive coup of force) in the name of God, creator of nature” (11). This process, which“present[s] performative utterances as constative utterances” (11), has been identified by Angela56Esterhammer as characteristic of Blake's fundamental approach to visionary poetics, noting that“Blakean grammar relies on constative statements but invests such statements with performativeeffect” (206). Rather than cajoling and hectoring his audience, as the Bard does, Orclinguistically enacts the state of liberation he aspires to create, bringing it to pass through sheervisionary authority.The nature of felicitous Blakean eschatological speech becomes more apparent in thesubsequent lines of the poem. Orc rhapsodizesLet the slave grinding at the mill, run out into the field;Let him look up into the heavens and laugh in the bright air:Let the inchained soul shut up in darkness and in sighing,Whose face has never seen a smile in fifty weary years;Rise and look out, his chains are loose, his dungeon doors are open. (53)The repetition of the imperative “Let” in the first three lines illustrates concisely the goal of theBlakean eschatological project. In Blake's work, genuine eschatological speech is notprescriptive, but emancipatory. Its purpose is not to inaugurate a new legislative model ofconduct, but to free individuals from the normative body of sociopolitical and metaphysicalconventions that binds them in a state of political and spiritual slavery. Consequentially, it mustremain committed to a dialogic mode of address, one that avoids what Buber calls thepropagandist model, in which “a man tries to impose himself, his opinion and his attitude, on theother in such a way that the latter feels the psychical result of the action to be his own insight”(82). Instead, the speaker must “[see] each of these individuals as in a position to become aunique, single person, and thus the bearer of a special task of existence which can be fulfilledthrough him and through him alone” (83). As Blake writes in his annotations to Lavater, “Eachman's leading propensity ought to be called his leading Virtue & his good Angel... Each thing isits own cause and its own effect. Accident is the omission of act in self & the hindering of act in57another, This is Vice but all Act is Virtue. To hinder another is not an act it is the contrary it is arestraint on action both in ourselves and in the person hindered. For he who hinders anotheromits his own duty at the time. Murder is hindering another. Theft is hindering another” (601).This melting away of sociopolitical and ideological “hindrance” is simultaneously an act ofradical hospitality, a rapturous invocation of the eschatological “Come” which invites theprecluded other into dialogue. The subjunctive “Let” of the address echoes Caputo's claim that“[t]he insistence of God belongs grammatically in the subjunctive, which subverts the settlednominations and conjunctions of the present” (55). These strategies represent a striving to nullifythe tendency of eschatological language to calcify into new structures of authoritarian discourse,as Blake believed had occurred with Christian doctrine.The action initiated by the Blakean eschatological performative is not a specific, codifiedactivity, but an invitation to an ungoverned, and ungovernable, ontological self-expression, anopening up into, as Makdisi writes, “the joyous life of 'the prolific,' indefinite, open, reaching outtoward an infinitely prolific number of re-makings, re-connections, re-imaginations – life as purepotential, life as constituent, rather than constituted power” (267). That this prolific life is firstand foremost a recovery of creative agency, a restoration of the inalienable right to imagine andre-imagine the self through language, is expressed in Orc's address by the bursting of the freedslaves into song, “Singing. The Sun has left his blackness, & has found a fresher morning/ Andthe fair moon rejoices in the clear and cloudless night” (53). This touching rhapsody, in whichthe natural world simultaneously gains a voice and becomes imaginatively animated participantsin the singers' jubilation, is coincident with the performative act of decolonization, thethunderous declaration that “Empire is no More, and now the Lion & Wolf shall cease”(53).This correlation between the marginalized subject's restored capacity for speech and the58sociopolitical overthrow of colonial rule points to the intersection between eschatological speechand political action. The capacity for a marginalized individual to perform their own subjectivity,to “speak with authority without being authorized to speak” (Butler 157), is a necessaryprecursor to revolutionary praxis. This newfound identity emerges not as a transcendent,extrasocial self but as an active respondent to concrete specific sociopolitical conditions. Theeschatological identity is a collective performance that allows its participants to act decisively onthe stage of history without being subsumed by the inherited narratives of power. The potency ofthis eschatological community is powerfully demonstrated in the poem by the Americans’collective resistance to Albion. Faced with the annihilating plagues of Albion, the manifestationof his poisonous sociopolitical performative, the Americans unite:The citizens of New York close their books and lock their chests;The mariners of Boston drop their anchors and unlade;The scribe of Pennsylvania casts his pen upon the earth;The builder of Virginia throws his hammer down in fearThen had America been lost, overwhelmed by the Atlantic,And Earth had lost another portion of the infinite,But all rush together in the night in wrath and raging fireThe red fires rag'd! The plague recoil'd! Then rolld they back with fury. (56)The decisive act of resistance against Albion's annihilating speech is not armed rebellion, but theestablishment of an alternative sociality to Britain's authoritarian imperialism, one which refuteswhat Sari Makdisi calls “the ontology of empire”(67). The “fierce rushing” that constitutes thiscommunal resistance forms a collective identity that, as Makdisi writes, “is much more than thesum of its constituent parts. It is a form of belonging – a community – whose very existence ispredicated upon the annihilation of those parts as self-sufficient, independent, sovereign units (i.ecitizens)” (40). This shared being, whose egalitarian communalism collapses all boundaries ofclass and selfhood central to British national identity, is an embrace of the ungoverned energiesof “Enthusiasm,” the dangerous passions of the disenfranchised majority which both59conservative and republican authorities strived to suppress. It gives voice, centrality, and agencyto “the creative potential of the multitude, its ability to generate other modes of social, economic,cultural, aesthetic, and religious organization than the ones recognized by both the establishedauthorities and the hegemonic liberal-radical reformers” (Makdisi 75). This unleashing of thepopulist imagination, experienced as a boundless, polymorphous, yet unified, body, cannot helpbut threaten the “compartmentalized, Manichean, and petrified” (Fanon 15) world of colonialpower, as its unstable ontology and scandalous hospitality fatally undermines the well-patrolledborders of difference which constitute the grammar of hegemonic authority.Once manifested among the Americans, this model of eschatological communitarian activityrapidly grows from an isolated instance of ideological resistance to an ontological contagion thatspreads unchecked through the body politic. Experienced as a literal disease by the powers andprincipalities of Britain, a plague which “creep[s] on the burning winds driven by the flames ofOrc/ And by the fierce Americans rushing together in the night” (Blake 57) and which horriblyafflicts the Angel Albion and his subservient principalities, who “writhed in torment in theeastern sky/ Pale quivering toward the brain his glimmering eyes, teeth chattering/ Howling&shuddering his legs quivering; convulsed each muscle & sinew” (57). However, for “femalespirits of the dead,” those marginalized voices whose subjectivity had been entirely precluded bynormative discourse, it is a rapturous, erotic liberation. Caressed by the invigorating fires of Orc,they “feel the nerves of youth renew, and the desires of ancient times/ Over their pale limbs as avine when the tender grapes appear” (220). In the accompanying illumination, naked femalefigures huddle in lily-like flames, which transform into vines and trees in the left-hand margin ofthe page. Along the corridor of this margin, two female bodies blissfully ascend. Between thewords and stanzas of the text, vines wind and birds cavort. This dizzying riot of human, bird,60plant, and flame combines to create a portrait of a rapturous interconnection of being, an eroticblurring of the boundaries between creatures which nevertheless preserves their distinct identitiesin the midst of this orgiastic communion. Here, language itself hovers on the edge oftransformation into pure joyous visionary activity, as the letters on the page blend with the vinesand figures that surround it in a manner reminiscent of Blake's description of his writing processto Henry Crabb Robinson, in which he declared “the moment I have written I see the words flyabout the room in all directions” (cited in Frye 200).In contrast to this unifying diversity, the advocates of England's authoritarian rule, thePriesthood, are divided and mutated by Orc's flames, and “in rustling scales,/ Rush into reptilecoverts, hiding from the fires of Orc” (220). Their ideological devotion to the imposed unity ofhegemonic discourse stands revealed as an isolating denial of human possibility, and ultimatelyof their own humanity. Amusingly, among those figures reptilized by Orc's transforming fires is“the Bard of Albion,” who may or may not be connected to the Ancient Bard of Experience'sIntroduction (and may also be a caricature of England's poet laureate, and frequent target ofsecond-generation Romantic scorn, Robert Southey), who grows “a cowl of flesh...over his head& scales on his back and ribs” (219).Central to the felicity of this address is the redefinition of linguistic categories. Albion'sAngel’s attempt to censure Orc's subversive performance rests on his wielding of conventionalreligious nomenclature in order to contain and classify his address as a satanic intrusion. Hedeclares Orc to be a “Blasphemous Demon, Antichrist, hater of Dignities/ Lover of wildRebellion and transgressor of Gods Law” (53-54), affirming the apocalyptic content of Orc'sspeech, while simultaneously framing the eschatological aspirations of the address not as anIsaiah-inspired invocation of the Day of the Lord, but as the insidious machinations of the61Antichrist, “speaking great things and blasphemy” (Revelation 13:5). This condemnation ofpopulist revolution as not only dangerous but fundamentally Satanic is consistent with whatFanon calls the “Manichean” language of imperialist power.Fanon observes that the colonized subject is characterized by their colonial overlords as“representing not only the absence of values, but also the negation of values… In other words,absolute evil. A corrosive element, destroying everything within his reach… an agent ofmalevolent powers, an unconscious and incurable instrument of blind forces” (6). Thisdehumanizing depiction of the colonial subject is not merely a reflection of the sociopolticalrealities of colonial rule, but is in fact one of the primary ways in which this dominationlinguistically reinforces itself. As Butler notes, “hate speech constitutes its addressee at themoment of its utterance; it does not describe an injury or produce one as a consequence; it is, inthe very speaking of such speech, the performance of the injury itself, where the injury isunderstood as social subordination” (18). However, the very institutional authority, the relianceon time-honoured conventions of prejudice and oppression, that lends hate speech its power alsoopens up the possibility of its subversion. “As an invocation” Butler writes, “hate speech is anact that recalls prior acts, requiring a future repetition to endure” (20). Consequentially, thepossibility exists of “reworking the force of the speech act against the force of injury,” apotential that “consists in misappropriating the force of speech from those prior contexts” (40).Butler cites the reappropriation of the word “queer” by LGBT rights activists as an example ofhow “speech can be 'returned' to its speaker in a different form, that it can be cited against itsoriginal purposes, and perform a reversal of effects” (14).Faced with the literally fatal hate-speech of Albion, Orc employs a similar strategy. In orderto counter this institutional contextualizing, Orc redefines Albion's pejorative naming as a badge62of honour, declaring that “the fiery joy, that Urizen perverted to ten commands,/ What night heled the starry hosts through the wild wilderness;/ That stony law I stamp to dust: and scatterreligion abroad” (54). Orc nimbly escapes the sociolinguistic net cast by Albion by redefininglanguage itself, recasting terms such as “Demon”, “Hell”, and “Antichrist,” which inconventional theological language act as powerful tools to negate the efficacy of political orreligious speech (“Blasphemy” of course being the classic ecclesiastical trump card for renderingan opponent's speech definitively, and often fatally, unfelicitous), as symbols of eschatologicalliberation, translating Albion's negating rhetorical strategy into a new conventional contextwhich treats these terms as guarantees of the address' felicity: “Fires inwrap the earthly globe, yetman is not consumed; Admidst the lustful fires he walks, his feet become like brass/ His kneeand thighs like silver and his breast and head like gold” (54). Orc accepts Albion's consignmentof him to the fires of Hell, and transforms those fires into emancipatory flames, in languageevocative of Daniel's prophecy of the messiah, whose “feet were like burnished bronze, when ithas been made to glow in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters” (Daniel10:6), an image echoed in the vision of Christ at the beginning of Revelation.However, while America positions these successes within the context of the AmericanRevolution, the eschatological community whose establishment is central for this felicity is anuncomfortable match when compared with historical and ideological realities of the AmericanWar of Independence. As Makdisi points out, the ontological basis for community that Blakepresents, that of a shared root of being experienced through the “fierce rushing” of Enthusiastecstasy, is not one shared by the rationalist Founding Fathers, whose emphasis on thesovereignty of the self, the enshrinement of property, and the principles of “natural rights” formspart of the ideological cluster that Blake characterizes as the latest form of the Urizenic63false-consciousness (“Deism is the worship of the God of this World by the means of what youcall Natural Religion and Natural Philosophy, and of Natural Morality or Self-Righteousness, theSelfish Virtues of the Natural Heart” (738)). The American Revolution did not inaugurate asociety of radical hospitality (the continuation of slavery, which overshadows America's constantreferences to chains and bondage, and the doctrines of white supremacy and patriarchy thatfatally undermine the new Republic's claims to universal equality, would have been enough todisabuse Blake of any unwarranted idealism in that direction) nor did it open “the doors ofmarriage” and instigate the sexual revolution that Blake felt in this period to be central to aneschatological fulfilment.This disharmony between the goals and events of the American Revolution and the mannerin which Blake depicts this struggle can hardly be accidental, especially in light of our argumentfor Blake's awareness of the context-sensitive nature of the eschatological address. Indeed, thepoem is full of moments that ironize or undermine the central celebration of revolutionaryvictory. In the two plates depicting the central performative duel between Orc and Urizen, acurious inversion occurs in the illuminations. The plate containing Orc's triumphantself-declaration is illustrated with a picture of an old man, resting on a throne of clouds whoseclassically God-like appearance suggests him to be Urizen, whereas its sequel, which containsAlbion's Angel's retaliatory curse, shows a child surrounded by womb-like waves of water orenergy in which curling vines can be faintly seen: clearly an illustration of Orc. This interchangeof iconography suggests a troubling interrelation between the two figures. While there is nothingprecisely in the poem to suggest the presence of Frye's “Orc-Urizen cycle,” in which therevolutionary transformation of Orc inevitably leads to Orc's assumption of an Urizen-like roleof despotic authority (Frye 233), this inversion of figures does point to the fundamental64dependance of the combatants' rhetorical felicity on the dualistic opposition of the other. Theopposition of Angel and Demon, of Law and Liberty, Heaven and Hell, even with the invertedvalues assigned to them by Orc, requires the presence of a villainized Other in order to beeffective, a dualism that threatens to undermine the ethics of hospitality that underpins Blakeaneschatology and reduce the call to liberty to a struggle for dominance.While Orc's allusions to Christ and Isaiah position him as the messianic “messenger whoproclaims peace” (Isaiah 52:7), an aura of violence surrounds him. Orc is introduced in asequence of violent sexuality, which critics such as Leslie Tanenbaum have characterized as rape(45). Orc seizes “the panting struggling womb” of the Shadowy Female who has imprisoned him,who is overcome with a mixture of joy and agony at his grasp, crying “O what limb rendingpains I feel. Thy fire and my frost/ Mingle in howling pains, in furrows by thy lightening rent:/This is eternal death; and this the torments long foretold” (Blake 52). This mingling of sexualityand pain is a distorted mirror of the later sexual liberation of the daughters of Albion, and hints ata more sinister dimension to Orc's emancipatory message; it is less a freedom from institutionaloppression than the triumph of a more vigorous form of power over an impotent and moribundpolitical hierarchy. This triumphant erotic aggression points to the actual social context in whichAmerica occurs, one in which the War for Independence is not a “mental fight” to liberatehumanity from the root causes of spiritual and political oppression, but a corporeal act ofviolence designed to set up a new political state; one which does little to challenge the systems oflabour, sexual repression, and spiritual isolation that constitute the postlapsarian condition.This disconnect between visionary possibility and sociopolitical reality returns us toBerdyaev’s lament for the tragic incommensurability of apocalyptic speech, its tendency withinhistory to “[become] objectified and [be] robbed of its eschatological character” (184). Certainly,65when pronounced in the context of a political agenda, the eschatological performative risks beingsubsumed and instrumentalized by that agenda, its hermeneutic expansiveness tethered to asociopolitical power play. The radical publisher Daniel Eaton, a contemporary of Blake, saweschatological enthusiasm as a powerful force that could be harnessed for the achievement of amore moderate, rational liberal reform, writing “ In Revolutions, Enthusiasts are necessary, whoin transgressing all bounds, may enable the wise and the temperate to attain their ends. Had it notbeen for the Puritans, whose aim was equally to destroy both episcopacy and royalty, the Englishwould never have attained that portion of civil and religious liberty which they enjoy” (cited inMee 144). Here, eschatological speech loses its unique character and becomes at best a rallyingcry for a sort of Enthusiast vanguard whose vulgar energies can be turned to productive ends bysoberer minds, at worst a sanctified cover for brute political expediency. As with the Bard'slament in the Songs, the eschatological reality described by the address is robbed of itsphenomenological integrity, no longer invoking an alternative world system whose impossiblelaws are sanctioned by a visionary prophetic authority, but instead serving as a way ofchannelling and deferring the “infinite desire” sparked by the address to a discrete sociopoliticalend, either reactionary or progressive. Whether an opiate or a rabble-rouser, the eschatologicalperformative fails to pierce the boundaries of its own self-contained world-creation, except in thepredetermined fashion dictated by the authority sanctioning its use.In America, this failure is represented in the twin illuminations bookending the work. Thebook opens with an engraving of Albion's Angel, crouched and hunched over in despair, acommon Blakean symbol of spiritual blindness and epistemological closure. It ends with a figurein much the same posture, his hands upraised in supplication. Despite the triumphant words ofthe conclusion, which declares the overturning of the “law-built heaven” following the66apocalyptic triumph of the French Revolution, in which the “five gates” of finite humanperception “were consumed, and their bolts and hinges melted,” the final image suggests anironic scepticism of this success. As the figure closes his body and senses to the eroticeschatological possibilities contained in the poem, so too does the book itself enclose and seal upthe eschatological demand it contains, emphasizing its isolation from the sociopolitical realities itostensibly describes. The very exuberance of the diegetic success of the poem’s apocalyptic plothighlights this isolation, and points to the extradiegetic failure of any genuine millenarian hopesfor the American and French Revolutions.This disconnect should not be taken, however, as maudlin despair at sociopolitical change,but a necessary strategic element of the Blakean eschatological address, a vital preservation of itsautonomy in the face of historical teleology. Eschatological speech operates, by necessity, inhistory, in dynamic conversation with concrete political and ideological struggles. It is, however,simultaneously an “end of history,” in that it resists the calcification of human life into abstractdoctrines and theoretical generalizations characteristic of political thought in favour of anexpansive, open-ended vision of human society. This tightrope act is maintained through whatButler calls the “lucky incommensurability” of language (to which we can attach the Austinianand Biblical synonyms, “felicitous” and “blessed”) in which, she claims, “resides the linguisticoccasion for change” (102). Unlike Berdyaev, who imagines agency as an extra-social momentof transcendent creative freedom “outside the objectified world, outside the time of this world…it knows neither past nor future” (181), and which is thus tragically thwarted by its entrance intothe phenomenal world, Butler locates the ground of genuine agency precisely in this failure oflinguistic sovereignty. Political agency, especially for “those unauthorized by prior conventionsor by reigning prerogatives of citizenship” is, Butler argues, derived predominantly “from the67failures in the performative apparatus of power, turning the universal against itself, redeployingequality against its existing formulations, retrieving freedom from its contemporary conservativevalence” (93). In the face of seemingly intractable hegemonic power structures, our greatest hopeis their inevitable, felicitous, blessed failure: “Whether there are prophecies, they shall fail;whether there are tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away”(Corinthians 13:8). The incommensurability of language, the impossibility of guaranteeing asingle, self-identical meaning and efficacy to one's utterances, opens the way to the death of thesovereign self and resituates agency as dependent on the navigation of an intersubjectivelanguage community. “[A]gency” Butler writes, “begins where sovereignty wanes. The one whoacts (who is not the same as the sovereign subject) acts precisely to the extent that he or she isconstituted as an actor and, hence, operating within a linguistic field of enabling constraints fromthe outset” (16). The failure of the myth of radical autonomy, the Urizenic selfhood makingworlds in the void, forces the speaker back to the only possible ground of genuine meaning andagency, the fraught and troubling field of human speech-communities, which Blake oftenportrays more like a war-zone than a paradise: the “wars of life, & wounds of Love/ Withintellectual spears, & long winged arrows of thought/ Mutual in one another's love and wrath allrenewing” (178). This contentious verbal sparring is a necessary component of the rigorouscommitment to dialogic address that forms the linguistic basis of the Jerusalem community. AsBuber writes, “I affirm the person I struggle with: I struggle with him as my partner, I confirmhim as creature and creation, I confirm him who is opposed to me as him who is over againstme” (79).Blake's Jerusalem concludes with a visionary literalization of this discursive ideal.Following the collapse of the hegemonic social norms represented by the fallen Albion, “the68Covenant of Priam, the Moral Virtues of the Heathen” (Blake 258), there is a miraculousrestoration of voice and creative agency to both the human and animal world, so that “everyColour, Lion, Tyger, Horse, Elephant Eagle Dove Fly, Worm, and the all wondrous Serpent…Humanize” (258) and join the collective dialogue, “the Mutual Covenant Divine”(258).Language itself becomes agential and independently participatory, so that “every Word & EveryCharacter/ Was Human.” This polyphonous discourse forms a single, collective human body,which “walk[s]/ Too &fro in Eternity as One Man,” while still maintaining the integrity of itsconstituent parts, each of which is “clearly seen and seeing.” The substance of this discourse is ineffect a co-creative, collaborative drama in which the participants “[converse] together inVisionary forms dramatic which bright/ [Redound] from their tongues in thunderous majesty inVisions/ In New expanses, creating Exemplars of Memory and of Intellect/ Creating Space,Creating Time according to the wonders Divine/ Of Human Imagination” (257-258). Here,Blakean eschatological speech is less a performative, either sociopolitical or evenphenomenological, a declarative demand that solicits assent according to the social or visionaryauthority of the speaker, and more a performance, a collaborative project that requires mutual,voluntary participation. It is a shared creative act in which all participants rely on each other tocompose and sustain the communal song. Jerusalem ends with the poet declaring “I heard thevoices of their emanations they are called Jerusalem,” a line followed by the epigram “The Endof the Song of Jerusalem.” In this ecstatic moment, “Jerusalem” is simultaneously the singer, thesong, the eschatological state that unites them, and the poem that contains them all, which hasnow been retroactively retitled a “song” (in the frontispiece, the title of the poem is Jerusalem orThe Emanation of the Giant Albion). Jerusalem emerges in the act of this performance, in itsstubborn insistence on the integrity of the Other and its attentiveness to the ever-renewing69demands of dialogic discourse. While it is fraught, demanding, and perpetually threatened by theequally protean forms of normative orthodoxy, both from within and without, its radicalhospitality and openness to unanticipated contingency provide both a credible social ethics and acompelling window into the manifold possibilities of interhuman life.70BibliographyAbrams, M.H. Natural Supernaturalism. New York: W.W Norton, 1971.Austin, J.L. How to Do Things With Words. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962.Beer, John. “Romantic Apocalypses.” Romanticism and Millenarianism. Ed. Tim Fulford. NewYork: Palgrave, 2002.Berydaev, Nicolas. The Divine and the Human. Trans. R.M French. London: Geoffrey Bles,1949.--- The Beginning and the End. Trans. R.M French. London: Geoffry Bles, 1952.Bloom, Harold. Blakes Apocalypse. 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