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Jerusalem’s Song: William Blake as Forerunner to Jung’s Feminist Psychology

Trudy Diane Eblen, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


William Blake's final epic poem, The Song of Jerusalem, consists of two textual narratives: the verbal (let me call it the conscious state) and the visual (the unconscious). I primarily focus on the visual, where the eponymous heroine psychically matures along the trajectory of a Jungian process of individuation (somewhat similar to the ancient universal initiation rite of maturation, as most famously described by Joseph Campbell). Preceding in Blake's corpus is a succession of his other female poetic characters, who represent various stages of successful and failed individuation—Thel, Lyca, Oothoon, and Ahania; these culminate in Jerusalem, Blake’s apotheotic female. Her visual story reveals the physicality of her liberating transformation that offers the reader a new feminist paradigm of personal freedom. In both illustrating and writing this archetype, Blake harkens back to the earlier original matriarchal cultures, from a pre-Christian stance. His mythopoetic world of Jerusalem reveals his beliefs in uninhibited sexuality as part of his open admonishment of the Moral Law, in addition to his opprobrium of England's prevalent industrial dehumanizing methods and its scathing misogynist cultural practices. Ultimately, the apex of my overarching thesis of Blake as a forerunner to feminism and Jung’s analytical psychology occurs when I write of a new interpretation of the standard, patriarchal reading of the hiersgamos of Jerusalem’s apotheosis in the penultimate plate. Indeed, my personal against- the-grain interpretation shows an ecriture feminine á la Hélène Cixous, as I argue against the Urizenic standards of linearity and phallologocentricism. Chapter One considers Blake as consciously oppositional to many of his culture’s patriarchal and rationalist tenets; Chapter Two reveals his and Carl Jung’s commonalities; Chapter Three studies the Romantic era’s female poetic subjects, portrayed by both female and male writers; and Chapter Four analyzes Jerusalem’s entire psychomachia, especially as displayed in the visual text. Blake’s peerless creation of The Song of Jerusalem, the most radical feminist poem in the 19th century, secures him and his pantheon's great heroine a stellar berth in British Romanticism.

Subject Area

British and Irish literature|Psychology|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Eblen, Trudy Diane, "Jerusalem’s Song: William Blake as Forerunner to Jung’s Feminist Psychology" (2019). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI22616348.