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By Steve Clark, Tristanne Connolly, Jason Whittaker (eds.)

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Extra info for Blake 2.0: William Blake in Twentieth-Century Art, Music and Culture

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Even Blake’s ‘cavern’d man’ is seen again, now described as the automaton (Fromm), the ‘cheerful robot’ (Wright Mills), and ‘one-dimensional man’ (Marcuse). Echoing the correspondence drawn by Blake between modern culture, political systems, and war, it seemed to Roszak, along with many others during the 1960s and 1970s, that the deepest impulses of the technocratic mind could be seen in the destruction of the natural world, the wars ravaging the twentieth century, and the threat of nuclear annihilation.

In conventional religious eschatologies, death ferries us from this world into a much larger reality. Even this conceit reappears in Romanticism and the counter culture, although now translated into secular terms, as the passage from closed to expansive realities. But these similarities mask the ways in which these works revise the religious categories they deploy. If we accept the sociologist Niklas Luhmann’s claim that religion is an attempt to mediate between what we do and don’t understand (42–3), then, at the risk of too radically simplifying a complex phenomenon, we can say that conventional religion reduces the tension between the known and the unknown: it detaches historical events from the temporal forces that produce them by reading them in relation to a transcendental reality (heaven and hell, for example) and authority (God).

D. Laing, Alan Watts, Timothy Leary, and Paul Goodman, amongst others. Ignored during his own lifetime, now channelled and amplified by these counter-cultural icons, Blake’s bivalent voice seemed at last to have reached the audience that it had always been addressing: the young men and women of the Age of Aquarius. Perhaps still more surprisingly, this belated audience was eager to begin the tasks urged by Blake: to set their foreheads against the bureaucrats who serviced the machinery of War, and to build Jerusalem in the ‘green & pleasant Land’ of post-industrial society.

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