Re-viewing William Blake’s Paradise Regained (c.1816–1820)

Naomi Billingsley

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Abstract

This article presents a revisionist reading of William Blake’s (1757–1827) twelve watercolor designs for John Milton’s “Paradise Regained” (c. 1816–1820). The designs have previously been dismissed in critical commentary as of little interest to Blake scholarship, or regarded as a narrative merely about Christ’s human nature. This article argues that they are also a visual expression of Blake’s cosmology; it is proposed that the designs express a positive cosmology, in which Paradise is not so much to be regained, as re-viewed. The article argues that Blake emphasizes Christ’s divinity in the designs and that he is depicted as an immanent, sacramental presence in the world; hence, the world that Christ inhabits in the designs is a Paradise. The article begins by outlining its reading of Blake’s view of the material world, and moves on to discuss the “Paradise Regained” designs in detail, with a particular focus on The Baptism of Christ, the opening subject of the series, which establishes the positive cosmology presented throughout the series.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16
Number of pages39
JournalReligion and the Arts
Early online date16 Feb 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018

Keywords

  • William Blake
  • Paradise Regained
  • Paradise
  • Baptism of Christ
  • Temptations of Christ
  • John Milton

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • John Rylands Research Institute and Library

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