Eternity's Sunrise The Imaginative World of William Blake Leo Damrosch

Publication date:
01 Nov 2016
Yale University Press
344 pages: 224 x 171mm
40 color + 56 b-w illus.
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In this richly illustrated portrait, a prize-winning biographer surveys the entire sweep of William Blake’s creative work while telling the story of his life

William Blake, overlooked in his time, remains an enigmatic figure to contemporary readers despite his near canonical status. Out of a wounding sense of alienation and dividedness he created a profoundly original symbolic language, in which words and images unite in a unique interpretation of self and society. He was a counterculture prophet whose art still challenges us to think afresh about almost every aspect of experience—social, political, philosophical, religious, erotic, and aesthetic. He believed that we live in the midst of Eternity here and now, and that if we could open our consciousness to the fullness of being, it would be like experiencing a sunrise that never ends.
Following Blake’s life from beginning to end, acclaimed biographer Leo Damrosch draws extensively on Blake’s poems, his paintings, and his etchings and engravings to offer this generously illustrated account of Blake the man and his vision of our world. The author’s goal is to inspire the reader with the passion he has for his subject, achieving the imaginative response that Blake himself sought to excite. The book is an invitation to understanding and enjoyment, an invitation to appreciate Blake’s imaginative world and, in so doing, to open the doors of our perception.

Leo Damrosch is Research Professor of Literature, Harvard University. His previous books include Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in biography and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in biography. He lives in Newton, MA.

"Lucid and absorbing . . . [with] an attractive hint of a secret passion [and] an unusual sense of ease and intimacy with Blake’s work."—Michael Wood, New York Times Book Review

"[An] excellent book, . . . [aiming] to be introductory in the best sense: 'to help nonspecialists appreciate Blake’s profoundly original vision and . . . the symbols in which he conveyed it.' . . . Scores of illustrations and color plates give us a small portion of Blake’s countless prints, engravings and watercolor designs, and his career is treated with admirable fullness."—William Pritchard, Wall Street Journal

"Wise and original."—Rosie Schaap, New York Times Magazine

"An outstanding book . . . [combining] learned analysis with a warm and conversational style. . . . [Its] primary distinction . . . is its intricate analysis of the relation between Blake’s verse and his vivid paintings and etchings — beautifully reproduced here in abundant color plates and illustrations."—Michael Lindgren, Washington Post

"Damrosch’s readings are nuanced, sensitive, and deeply perceptive, touched with wonder at the poet’s originality and alive to the ways that Blake’s beliefs presented 'a wide-ranging challenge to orthodox morality.' With generous illustrations, including a gallery of breathtaking full-color plates, Damrosch’s study will build an appreciation among scholars and general readers alike for Blake’s 'vast, complicated myth' and reinforce his place in the Western canon as a 'profound thinker' and creative genius 'not in a single art but in two.'"—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Damrosch captures Blake’s creativity in all its complexity, bringing to life his work as a poet, engraver and painter in a revolutionary age."—Nicholas Roe, Literary Review

"Leans heavily on the poetry, etchings and engravings, the works illustrating the man . . . this attractive volume would make a delightful present."—Robert Carver, The Tablet

"This book is written in a very accessible style, is peppered with analogies and punctuated with dry wit . . . a very good read and a healthy addition to the subject."—St John Simpson, British Museum Magazine

"The book’s strength in its sumptuous colour reproductions of Blake’s artwork and in Damrosch’s attentive reading of them."—Hilary Davies, The Tablet

New York Times Book Review, Editors’ Choice

A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2015

Finalist for the 2015 National Book Critics Circle award in the criticism category

Shortlisted for the 2016 Christian Gauss Award given by the Phi Beta Kappa Society

"This astute, generously illustrated study is an excellent introduction to William Blake. It will help both new and experienced readers to understand Blake as poet, painter, engraver, printer—and as a person."—Andrew Lincoln, Queen Mary University of London

"Leo Damrosch’s luminous new book on William Blake forsakes esoteric scholarship and addresses itself to the common reader who is invited to a festive celebration of the great English poet who was also an extraordinary visual artist and a profound and original thinker."—Harold Bloom