Essays in Romanticism

William Blake’s ךונח (“Enoch”) Lithograph (1806–7): Producing the Theme of Self-Annihilation, Resisting the Politics of the Napoleonic Wars

Essays in Romanticism (2018), 25, (2), 161–186.

Abstract

William Blake produces “Enoch”—the artist/poet’s sole known lithograph—between 1806–7, while working on his illuminated epic Milton: A Poem in Two Books. At the centre of Blake’s Milton is a thrust towards a politics that eschews material violence, what Blake terms “Corporeal War,” through the continual exercise of what the poet calls “self-annihilation,” the placing of others before oneself. Blake’s “Enoch” takes as its subject a series of passages in the Hebrew Bible Book of Genesis and John Milton’s Paradise Lost. In Genesis, the Hebraic patriarch Enoch is taken by God directly to heaven, a dynamic where Enoch’s self is annihilated. In Book XI of Paradise Lost, Enoch is said to be divinely selected because he intervenes against violence. Drawing upon biblical and Miltonic antecedents, in relation to antecedent artistic engagements with Enoch and Milton undertaken by such key figures as John Flaxman and James Barry, Blake mobilizes the Enoch trope against the machinations of violence and war in his own time, in developing his self-annihilation concept. Because Blake’s artistic practice is politically engaged, and encompasses both visual and textual endeavours, the critical act of tracing the development of concepts and ideas like that of self-annihilation across Blake’s work suggests a framework for grappling with artists whose projects demand interdisciplinary politicized approaches.

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Author details

Leveton, Jacob Henry