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BOOK REVIEWS 455 Middle-earth fictions, or of the relationship between myth-making and personal religious faith in general, will find this anthology accessible, useful, and thoughtprovoking . Erika J.Travis California Baptist University Blake and the Bible. By Christopher Rowland. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010. ISBN978-0300-11260-3. Pp. xix + 289. $50.00. Christopher Rowland's Blake and the Bible will immediately call to mind David V. Erdman's similarly-titled collection Blake and his Bibles (1990), and the difference between the titles says much about what literary scholars may question in Rowland's study of Blake's biblical exegesis. Rowland's working assumption is that Blake's view and use of the Bible was consistent throughout his lifetime. Accordingly, he does not consider the evolution of Blake's relationship to the Bible in any kind of chronological sequence. Instead, he analyzes Blake's biblical hermeneutics from four general perspectives: how Blake interpreted the Bible through images;how he critiqued the Bible;how Blake's exegeticalmodel paralleled those of the biblical prophets and the self-declared prophets of the long eighteenth century; and how Blake used Jesus and Paul. Rowland's thematic and systematic approach sometimes makes his organization seem haphazard, and readers would do well to first read both the introductory chapter and conclusion in order to get a full sense of his argument. Even in these places, however, Rowland still seems to struggle with balancing Blake's incessant use of the Bible with his fierce criticism of it (2). Rowland's best answer to this conundrum is that Blakebelieved the Bible "rouze]s] the faculties to act" (6). The Bible thus served as "a stimulus rather than a template for Blake" (9). As Rowland acknowledges, though, this was how Blake viewed all great texts (234), which seems to sidestep why the Bible remained so central to Blake's artistic mission. Rowland's second and third chapters argue that the Illustrations to the Book of Job were "the acme of [Blake's) theological thinking" (I3), emblematic of Blake's "biblical exegesis" (13), and "a heuristic lens to view Blake's theology and interpretation of the Bible as a whole" (IS). For Rowland, the interplay between word and image in Job is central to Blake's biblical exegesis because it forces the engagement of the readers/viewers in the interpretative process. This is an important point, but it really doesn't explain the role of the Biblein Blake's poetry, unless one determinedly reads Blake's works in their material context, which is not Rowland's approach. Rowland illuminates Job's visual and verbal allusions to the 456 CHRISTIANITY AND LITERATURE Bibleand Blake's other works in wonderful detail, but his analysis of each plate is so exacting that our broader understanding of Blake's exegeticalprinciples seems little advanced by the end of the two chapters. Chapter four makes the claim that Blake understood the divine as a "multiplicity" (73). This view includes but goes far beyond the classic tension between God's justice and mercy, and Rowland highlights how Blake personified figures such as Elohim, the Angel of the Presence, Satan, and Jesus. For Rowland, Blake's practice of mythologizing the divine is "reminiscent" (81) of the Gnostics (a favorite topic of Rowland's),but he admits this interpretative technique could have just as easily derived from his reading of Jacob Boehme, the Kabbalah, Milton, or simply his own reading of the Bible (83). What is key for Rowland is that Blake's mythologizing exegesisshows how the divine multiplicity was perpetually engaged in its own battles of contraries, a fruitful intellectual and spiritual battle that ultimately reveals the true organic nature of the divine and human. This argument leads to chapter five's consideration of how Blake critiques biblical form and authority in TheMarriage of Heaven and Hell, TheFirst Bookof Urizen, the Genesis Manuscript, and the drawings for the Book of Enoch, works that "exploited the fissures in the depiction of God within the Bible" (87). Rowland concedes, "None of these texts, strictly speaking, is an interpretation of the Bible" (1l8) but they serve instead as radical critiques that, again, "rouze the faculties to act" (118...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2056-5666
Print ISSN
0148-3331
Pages
pp. 455-458
Launched on MUSE
2020-02-04
Open Access
No
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