The author of this important contribution to the study of Blake was tragically drowned in a sailing accident when he had almost completed it in manuscript. His was a critical mind of singular erudition and power. As is abundantly evidenced in these chapters which Northrop Frye has prepared for publication. Fisher had made a careful study of Oriental philosophy and of Plato and the Neo-Platonists and this background enabled him to make an original and fruitful analysis of his central interest, Blake.
The book is not a study of Blake's sources but of his context. The author is trying to answer the question: given Blake's general point of view, why does he make the specific judgments he does make, judgments which so often seem merely glib or petulant or perverse. Blake himself, in explaining a painting, remarked: "It ought to be understood that the Persons, Moses & Abraham, are not here meant, but the States Signified by those Names." Fisher explains what Blake meant by "states," and shows that such names as Plato, Bacon or Newton, or such terms as "priest" or "deist" in Blake's writings, refer not to individuals but to cultural forces in Western civilization, the influence of which accounted for the social conditions that Blake attacked. The attack itself, Fisher shows, was based on a revolutionary dialectic, a sense of the underlying opposition between reactionaries committed to obscurantism and social injustice, the "Elect" as Blake calls them, and the prophets committed to a greater vision (the "Reprobate"), with the mass of the public (the "Redeemed") in between.
About the authors
Peter F. Fisher (1918-1958) was, at the time of his death, Head of the Department of English, Royal Military College, Kingston.
Northrop Frye (1912-1991) was one of Canada's most distinguished men of letters. His first book, Fearful Symmetry, published in 1947, transformed the study of the poet William Blake, and over the next forty years he transformed the study of literature itself. Among his most influential books are Anatomy of Criticism (1957), The Educated Imagination (1963), The Bush Garden (1971), and The Great Code (1982). Northrop Frye on Shakespeare (1986) won the Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction. A professor at the University of Toronto, Frye gained an international reputation for his wide-reaching critical vision. He lectured at universities around the world and received many awards and honours, including thirty-six honorary degrees.
Other titles by Northrop Frye
The Educated Imagination
The Return of Eden
Five Essays on Milton's Epics
Design for Learning
Reports Submitted to the Joint Committee of the Toronto Board of Education and the University of Toronto
University of Toronto Installation Lectures, 1958
Northrop Frye's Writings on Shakespeare and the Renaissance
The Bush Garden
Essays on the Canadian Imagination
Northrop Frye's Uncollected Prose
The Secular Scripture and Other Writings on Critical Theory, 1976–1991
Modern Classics: The Great Code
The Bible and Literature