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n Journal of Literary Studies - The Speaking Garden in William Blake's : metaphors of wisdom and compassion

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Abstract

Responding to the reductionist and objectifying dualisms of scientific mechanism and authoritarian Christianity, Blake's work evokes a view of being in which "everything that lives is holy". In <I>The Book of Thel&lt;/I&gt; (1789) this is exemplified in the representation of an ecologically interdependent Garden of speaking subjects. In this environment, the insubstantiality and impermanence of all subjectivity (which for Thel is a source of distress) is shown to be the necessary condition for love and reciprocity. This article is an appreciative reading of &lt;I&gt;Thel&lt;/I&gt; in relation to the late modern predicament of eco-social crisis, and in conversation with (simultaneously deconstructive and affirmative) views of subjectivity and liberation in Mahayana Buddhism. My purpose is to represent it as what might be called a "teaching text" for contemporary readers with regard to both the dualisms of self versus nature which habitually carve up the nondual world, and the dualistic oppositions of absolutism versus relativism and essentialism versus nihilism. In the imaginative space of the Garden, the jewelled network of what in Buddhism are called emptiness (<I>sunyata</I>) and dependent arising (<I>pratitya-samutpada</I>) is recognised as an interdependent network of care; for the speaking plants and animals, no-self means selflessness; the radical insight into impermanence and interdependence is shown to be inseparable from love; wisdom and compassion are inextricable. Blake's metaphors for this are simple and instructive.

In antwoord op die reduksionistiese en objektiverende dualismes van wetenskaplike meganismes en outoritêre Christendom, lok Blake se werk 'n siening uit van die bestaan van kreature waarin alles wat leef heilig is. In <I>The Book of Thel&lt;/I&gt; (1789) word dit vereenvoudig in die voorstelling van 'n ekologies afhanklike Tuin van sprekende subjekte. In hierdie omgewing word die onsubstansialiteit en verganklikheid van alle subjektiwiteit (wat vir Thel 'n bron van ellende is) uitgewys as die noodsaaklike voorwaarde vir liefde en die beantwoording daarvan. Hierdie artikel is 'n waarderende interpretasie van &lt;I&gt;Thel&lt;/I&gt; met betrekking tot die resente moderne penarie van ekososiologiese krisis, en in gesprek met (gelyktydig dekonstruktiewe en bevestigende) sienings van subjektiwiteit en bevryding in Mahayana Boedhisme. My doel is om dit voor te stel as wat genoem kan word 'n onderwysende teks vir die kontemporêre leser met betrekking tot sowel die dualismes van self versus die natuur, wat die niedualistiese wêreld verdeel, as die dualistiese opposisies van absolutisme versus relativisme en essensialisme versus nihilisme. In die verbeelde ruimte van die Tuin word die versierde netwerk van wat in Boedhisme bekend staan as leegheid (<I>sunyata</I>) en afhanklike opstanding (<I>pratitya samutpada</I>), herken as 'n onafhanklike netwerk van sorg; vir die pratende plante en diere beteken geen-self selfloosheid; die radikale insig in verganklikheid en interafhanklikheid word uitgewys as onafskeidbaar van liefde; wysheid en deernis is onlosmaaklik. Blake se metafore hiervoor is eenvoudig en insiggewend.

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/content/litstud/19/1/EJC62346
2003-03-01
2016-12-08
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