Authorship, Ethics and the Reader: Blake, Dickens, Joyce by D. Rainsford

By D. Rainsford

Dominic Rainsford examines ways that literary texts could appear to touch upon their authors' moral prestige. Its argument develops via readings of Blake, Dickens, and Joyce, 3 authors who locate in particular bright methods of casting doubt on their lonesome ethical authority, whilst they reveal wider social ills. The publication combines its curiosity in ethics with post-structuralist scepticism, and hence develops one of those radical humanism with functions some distance past the 3 authors instantly mentioned.

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And not sit both night & day, Wiping all our tears away. O! no never can it be. Never never can it be. (E, 17) Here again the cradled infant languishes in what is literally a vale of tears. The children of Innocence are vehicles for pathos: to sympathize with them is to assume a naivety that invites the depredations of wild beasts or of the bestial aspects of Man. 13; E, 84). The assertion of a pathetically unsupported faith in 'On Anothers Sorrow', O! no never can it be. Never never can it be.

Her ambivalence itself suggests embarrassment: this is an uneasy poem, describing rivalry at least as much as love. The two Cradle Songs and the two Nurse's Songs exemplify an archetypal situation, involving a child or a traveller sleeping, dying, being bewitched or beguiled under a female eye, which is evidently of great importance to Blake. It appears, as we have seen, in Poetical Sketches, where it relates to melancholia and narcissism; in Tiriel, in the protagonist's relations with Heva and Mnetha; and it will be recalled repeatedly in the Prophetic Books, taking dogmatic form in the 'Female Will'.

Taken as a whole, the world of the Sketches is, in a phrase from Experience, a 'dangerous world' ('Infant Sorrow'; E, 28), where the lovers of To the Evening Star' shut out a night in which 'the wolf rages wide/ And the lion glares thro' the dun forest' (E, 410), and in which the wives and children of the poor, in 'Gwin, BCing of Norway', are seen 'Howling like ghosts, furious as wolves/ In the bleak wintry day' (E, 418). And, as we have seen, there are a number of protagonists in Poetical Sketches who have a correspondingly Melancholia and the Search for a System 19 diseased and dangerous attitude to life.

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