Mirrored text/infinite planes: Reception aesthetics in blake’s Milton

Mark Lussier

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


William Blake’s illuminated prophecy, Milton, invites a wide range of methodological approaches: artistic conception, biblical connections, mythic construction, narrative progressions, subject formation, textual production, visual representations.1 In this chapter I wish to return to the central issue of the poem itself - the transmission of poetic and intellectual inheritance - by exploring the wide spectrum of possible reception and response dynamics. My aspiration here is to move beyond a simple summation of past positions (Bloom, Easson, Mitchell) to achieve a higher synthesis on a more energetic plane of critical reception where ‘understanding, interpretation and application [meet]’ (Jauss 143). The difference between ‘reception’ and ‘response’ is a complicated one and reflects a broad cultural versus a more personal interaction with a text. Indeed, in his brief preface to Reception Theory, Robert C. Holub acknowledges the inherent difficulties in clearly separating these terms: ‘Nonetheless, the most frequent suggestion has been to view Rezeption as related to the reader, while Wirking is supposed to pertain to textual aspects - an arrangement that is not entirely satisfactory by any account’ (xi). In the current case of Milton, Blake seems to work in both dimensions, with his printing technique employing a textual dynamic (mirrored writing) designed to highlight the necessity of active readership, while the thematic concerns relate to his own reception and response to the dead poet John Milton and his works. The discursive fields taken as exemplary of this process of assimilation and re-creation will be those of science fiction and scientific writing, despite the long association of Blake with anti-scientism and a flight from reason.2 The chapter thus begins with Blake’s dramatization of his own response to Milton, and concludes with the activation of response in a future, and unexpectedly hospitable, audience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationBlake 2.0: William Blake in Twentieth-Century Art, Music and Culture
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9780230366688
ISBN (Print)9780230280335
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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