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BOOK REVIEWS 347 comparison of Marlowe's Jew of Malta and Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice (the second clearly a response to the first), Greenblatt observes that Shakespeare "at once borrows from TheJewof Malta and repudiates its corrosive, merciless irony" (Will in the World: HowShakespeare BecameShakespeare, Norton, 2004, 286). What Greenblatt finds in Merchant instead of Marlovian irony is what he calls "shoots of a strange, irrepressible imaginative generosity" Generosity may be nothing but economic self-interest, of course, but people have developed different words for thinking about it, including "grace:' "faith:' "hope:' and "love:' which have not been conceived as identical to each other and are not necessarily in every instance nothing but bad faith. If one begins with the assumption that all these things are a delusion, the evidence to support the assumption can certainly be found. Hypocrisy is certainly a reality, and so are self-deception, exploitation, and punitive cruelty in the name of God. Parker sets out to convince his readers that the Christian record and Christian reasoning show nothing but these things, and it would be foolish to deny the brilliance and erudition of his effort. All I can say is that this reader, for one, remains unconvinced of Parker's basic assumption. John D. Cox HopeCollege William Blakeand the Cultures ofRadicalChristianity. ByRobert Rix. Hampshire: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2007. ISBN 978-0-75465600-5. Pp. 182. $99.95. Anyone who has ever read or attempted to teach the poetry of William Blake will understand both the difficulty and the value of Robert Rix's project. Blake's work is difficult. Even work that seems simple is not so. Even the loveliest lyrics in TheSongs of Innocence, the most absolutely straightforward, can make complex demands on a reader because they are parts of a larger, much less transparent whole. One is always being forced to consider the context of the speaker and the situation of those characters in the poem being spoken to or being spoken about. You also have the visual aspects of the works to consider. Of course, TheSongs ofInnocence as a set of poems cannot be understood apart from, or out of context with The Songs of Experience, where similar questions of context are ever occurring. In the "Little Black Boy:' from TheSongs of Experience, the narrator is an African woman, a slave or former slave, attempting to explain to her child his relation to God and to the English boy who won't befriend him. How shall we appraise her perspective? Is she a guardian figure like those in Innocence who we mostly learn to trust, or is she more like those custodians of the poor in Experience we learn to despise? Does she teach the son to worship a debased, fallen image of God? Does she pass on to him a sort of pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die religiosity, thus unintentionally serving the master, or does she proclaim the real thing revealed to her despite her and her son's master's worst intentions? Will the boy be consoled? Should he be? And how shall the reader respond? 348 CHRISTIANITY AND LITERATURE Rix does deal with this poem, and other poems from The Songs ofInnocence and The Songs ofExperience, as he declares himself most interested in the period of the 1790s, Blake's early period, but the interpretative difficulty he takes on is more external than internal. That is, Rix puts the "Little Black Boy" poem in context with an abolitionist movement in England both informed and motivated by Swedenborgian thought and movements that swirled around Blake, even if Blake himself at various times distanced himself from Swedenborg and Swedenborgians. It is BlakeRix attempts to put in context, and Blake's poems, not so much with each other as with the cultural situation out of which they came, seeming to assume, rightly, I think, that the Blake industry has done a credible job dealing with many if not most of the internal interpretative cruxes, and the bigger problem is making him less the lonely, isolated genius and more the man of or in dialogue with his times. So Rix'sbook is an influence study, religious influence more than any...


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pp. 347-351
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