William Blake's monstorus progeny
Anatomy and the birth of horror in The [First] Book of Urizen
in William Blake's Gothic imagination
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Lucy Cogan suggests that, for Blake, Gothic horror has more to do with putting together than it does taking apart the body. That is, if the experiences of terror and horror central to different forms of the Gothic often involve descriptions of physical torture, in Blake the representation of corporeal distress extends to the process of bodily formation, composition, and birth. Cogan thus reads the physical (de)formation of Urizen in light of William Hunter’s gruesome ‘anatomical obstetrics’, transforming the former into an allegory for Enlightenment scientific methodologies that are more than content to limit sensibility to a ratio of the senses, to murder and then dissect the imagination under the guise of birthing new light. ‘Like a distorted mirror-image of the Enlightenment scientists who used the tools of compass, telescope and microscope to chart the wonders of the universe’, Cogan argues that ‘Urizen by dividing and defining the material universe is also slicing into it, tearing and mutilating the fabric of existence’.


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