“Every word and every letter is studied and put into its fit place”—Blake might have been describing our carefully curated blog posts (!), but it’s actually a claim for his gnarly epic Jerusalem, the focus of the lead piece in our autumn issue (vol. 52, no. 2). Although (or perhaps because) he took such pains, “its readers have found it puzzling, if not incomprehensible,” as Sheila Spector states. “The Horizon of Expectations: Reading Jerusalem” continues Sheila’s work on the Kabbalah and esoteric myth to posit a new and to her mind more viable framework for considering the poem:
This paper seeks to generate an alternative horizon of expectations, predicated on an esoteric, as opposed to exoteric, approach. This is not an arbitrary choice; as I demonstrate in my companion volumes “Glorious incomprehensible”: The Development of Blake’s Kabbalistic Language and “Wonders Divine”: The Development of Blake’s Kabbalistic Myth, Blake gradually incorporated aspects of the kabbalistic attitude toward language and elements of the kabbalistic myth into his composite art, culminating in Jerusalem. In those studies, I explored what Blake had done; here, I consider how and why he did it. Based on and designed only for Jerusalem, the following horizon of expectations is meant to provide the foundation for more coherent readings of Blake’s final prophecy.
The Blake Archive currently holds two copies of Jerusalem, E (Yale Center for British Art) and F (Morgan Library and Museum). Illustrations in Sheila’s article are from copy E (as I’ve mentioned on countless previous occasions, the YCBA has a liberal reproduction policy for images in the public domain). The cover of the issue is an adaptation of plate 92; the image appealed because Jerusalem seems to be giving a “Don’t ask me what it’s about” shrug. Handily, given the title of the article, there is also a horizon in the design.
I’ve devoted the rest of the issue to reviews. Andrés Ferrada Aguilar discusses Daniela Picón, Visiones de William Blake: Itinerarios de su recepción en los siglos XIX y XX, Luke Walker reviews the 2017 expanded reissue of Songs of Innocence and Experience by William Blake, Tuned by Allen Ginsberg, and Luisa Calè illuminates (with lots of images kindly provided by the curators) the exhibition and catalogue for William Blake in Sussex, held at Petworth House earlier this year.
Finally, a reminder that our autumn 2013 issue (vol. 47, no. 2) is now open access. It ties into the new issue in a couple of ways: Jon Roberts’s “William Blake’s Visionary Landscape near Felpham” discusses Blake’s Landscape near Felpham, one of the works in the Petworth exhibition, while Paul Yoder reviews Susanne Sklar, Blake’s Jerusalem as Visionary Theatre: Entering the Divine Body. This book and Yoder’s own The Narrative Structure of William Blake’s Poem Jerusalem: A Revisionist Interpretation (reviewed by Molly Anne Rothenberg in winter 2011–12) appear in Sheila’s article.
The autumn 2018 issue will be open access for a week, until Halloween (which may be the subject of the next blog post).