Beyond the Veil of Fantasy: “The Book of Thel” and the Critique of Romantic Ideology

Ghiasuddin Alizadeh1 & Shideh Ahmadzadeh2

1 PhD candidate of English Literature, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran

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2 Professor of English Literature, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran

   Volume 9, Number 4, 2017 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v9n4.07

Received August 21, 2017; Revised September 13, 2017; Accepted November 30, 2017; Published December 09, 2017.


Romanticism is usually conceived as a return, from the corrupt political and social milieu, to the purity and innocence of Nature. Romantics, it is argued, aspired for liberty and freedom from the yoke of oppressive social institutions, and cherished the ‘fantasy’ of an ideal society built upon ‘true’ humane values. However, the ultimate failure of the French Revolution in realizing the romantic ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity opened the eyes of some of the Romantic poets to the inherent antagonism, constitutive of human existence as such, namely, the impossibility of a return to a prelapsarian sense of innocence, of the prospect of building a society purged from taints of evil and ideological conflict. This research aims to read William Blake’s The Book of Thel as the poet’s critique of Romantic ideology and fantasy. Through a close analysis of the poem, informed by the ideas of Slavoj Žižek, this article tries to reveal Blake’s insight into the ontological perversity of human civilization and the relationship between the Romantic notions of innocence and experience.

Keywords: Romantic ideology; innocence; experience; fantasy; French Revolution.

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