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A Blake Dictionary: The Ideas and Symbols of William Blake Revised Edition

5 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0874514360
ISBN-10: 0874514363
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“A rich treasury embodying the results of a lifetime of masterly and devoted research into every aspect of Blake’s work and thought.”—Modern Language Review

From the Publisher

5 1/2 x 8 1/2 trim. 13 illus. 6 figs. LC 87-40509
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 573 pages
  • Publisher: Brown; Revised edition (June 15, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0874514363
  • ISBN-13: 978-0874514360
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #62,661 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Prophet? Madman? Or philosopher? The mythological characters in William Blake's prophetic poetry present a conundrum for the reader who confronts these characters with the traditional literary expectations of a symbolic reading. Indeed, the vanguard of contemporary criticism would argue that the very complexity of Blake's mythology precludes an all inclusive schemata.
Yet S. Foster Damon's A BLAKE DICTIONARY offers compelling testament that there was methodology in Blake's madness. In addition to providing a detailed enunciation of virtually every character in Blake's poetry, Damon further offers an exposition of the major themes and symbols which Blake repeatedly returned to in his longer prophetic works. Along with both Northrop Frye's FEARFUL SYMMETRY and David Erdman's PROPHET AGAINST EMPIRE, Damon's meticulously cross-referenced dictionary is an essential reference work for anyone who dares delve into Blake's complex mythology.
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Format: Paperback
Many thousands of books have been written about William Blake. Three quarters of them should be hurled from the top of 60-storey buildings then trampled on by herds of rogue elephants. Most of the rest should be replaced with care on library shelves and quietly consumed by silverfish.

Here is a book that is not only Not an abomination but is actually worth buying. It was first published back in the happy sapphire days of 1965, when even an academic could still read a poet to find out what he or she had to say; and could write about a poet without quoting from a single unreadable French intellectual.

I have learnt more from William Blake than from anyone else writing English; but his longer poems are notoriously difficult, and at first they can appear overwhelmingly confusing. One of the major obstacles is the quantity of strange and uncouth names, of imaginary people and places, of home-made concepts, that speckle every page.

Eventually you'll find out that they mattered less than you thought, all those names. But having this book at hand to allay name-anxiety during the early stages will help you relax and just read. Blake never presents theories, or things that may or may not be true: only what he himself has Seen. What he saw was so uncommon he had to create his own way of expressing it. When you can swim in the ocean of Blake's thought - when you can make out what he's talking about - this Dictionary will have served its purpose.

I don't always agree with S. Foster Damon's interpretations. Freud and Jung should not be used to interpret Blake. He was well aware of what we call the Subconscious; but what he calls Eternity is Not, repeat Not, Jung's Collective Unconscious. Still, no two people will read Blake in exactly the same way. If you plan to explore Blake (and you should) this is the one essential guide.
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Format: Paperback
Title says it all. Not that it's perfect, but it's one of a number of foundational books for helping understanding Blake, at least from a scholarly perspective.

It provides a list of terms, names, places, etc., their symbolism and logical background for their derivation, and so forth. Dictionary structure makes it ideal for students plumbing the depths of Blake's world.
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Format: Paperback
My interest in Blake became much deeper when I was introduced to the context of poetry as a form of faith trying to surpass all the old doctrines that creep up on religious frames of mind. S. Foster Damon, whose Blake Dictionary was first published in 1965, pictures the English poet Lord Byron in his wilderness after a Calvinist upbringing which predestined him for damnation striking back at the Creator with Cain, A Mystery (December, 1821) not long after Blake and Byron were at a party at Lady Caroline Lamb's on January 20, 1820. Blake's The Ghost of Abel (1822) was dedicated to "Lord Byron in the Wilderness." There may be some irony in a dictionary that offers explanations like:

MATTER is a delusion,
a thin coating of unreality,
which is mistaken for reality
by those whose vision is single only,
like Newton's. It is the veil of Vala.
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