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Brahma in the West

William Blake and the Oriental Renaissance


Argues that the myths and ideals of William Blake's poetry were heavily influenced by the Oriental Renaissance—the British discovery of Hindu literature. Examining William Blake's poetry in relation to the mythographic tradition of the eighteenth century and emphasizing the British discovery of Hindu literature, David Weir argues that Blake's mythic system springs from the same rich historical context that produced the Oriental Renaissance. That context includes republican politics and dissenting theology—two interrelated developments that help elucidate many of the obscurities of Blake's poetry and explain much of its intellectual energy. Weir shows how Blake's poetic career underwent a profound development as a result of his exposure to Hindu mythology. By combining mythographic insight with republican politics and Protestant dissent, Blake devised a poetic system that opposed the powers of Church and King. “…the [book] provides ample challenges for future studies to address the double relationship implicit in how Blake’s shifting representation of the world around him intersects with the complex and often contradictory relationship between the politics and religion of Orientalism.” — CLIO “Brahma in the West puts Blake’s references to Hinduism, long since brought to our attention through the scholarly intuition of S. Foster Damon, Northrop Frye, and Kathleen Raine, into their contemporary discourses. Weir’s book is a fresh attempt at interpreting the dynamic of Blake’s Zoa and Emanation constellations.” — Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly “Weir’s project works against the grain … by grappling especially with the problem of Blake’s mythology in the context of the poet’s own times … Brahma in the West is a significant contribution.” — Chicago South Asia Newsletter "David Weir's approach to Blake's reconstitution of the Indian mythopoetic thought in his own terms—his locating of Blake's vision in terms of Oriental Renaissance—takes into account the history of interpretation of Hindu texts by colonialist and non-colonialist writers of the eighteenth century. As Weir suggests, in many places when the colonialist authors saw 'error and superstition,' Blake's poetic mind encountered mythic richness. More important is the fact that Weir looks into Blake's own misreadings, locating them historically, and he makes a good case for the legitimacy of misreading as part of cross cultural influence. It is all very fascinating." — Lalita Pandit, coeditor of Literary India: Comparative Studies in Aesthetics, Colonialism, and Culture