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Prophecy, the Law of Insanity, and "The [First] Book of Urizen"

Mark L. Barr
Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900
Vol. 46, No. 4, The Nineteenth Century (Autumn, 2006), pp. 739-762
Published by: Rice University
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4127506
Page Count: 24
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Prophecy, the Law of Insanity, and "The [First] Book of Urizen"
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Abstract

This article claims that William Blake draws on cultural and legal notions of insanity to create a space within which radical expression could exist safe from government prosecution. Concerned with an expansive definition of treason in 1794, Blake utilized the cultural conflation of prophet with madman and encoded his prophetic books with a form of internal contradiction analogous to legal conceptions of insanity-an internally divided subject was deemed incompetent to stand trial or instigate legal proceedings.

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