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William Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience

A Student's Guide

Brendan Cooper

William Blake (1757–1827) is one of the most significant figures in the history of English poetry. He is also one of the most mysterious, most challenging, and most frequently misunderstood. His Songs of Innocence and of Experience, on the surface so simple, are laden with mysteries that seem to deepen on every reading.

In this book, aimed at A Level and undergraduate students, Brendan Cooper explores the subtleties and contradictions of the Songs, avoiding formulaic readings by asking key questions about Blake’s life and art. What are the Songs about? What does Blake mean by «Innocence» and «Experience»? Why are they called «Songs»? Was Blake a genius, or a madman?

This engaging and accessible introduction to Blake’s work will help students to navigate its complexities and develop their own critical responses to the text.

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1757 William Blake born at 28 Broad Street, Westminster, 28 November.

1762 Jean-Jacques Rousseau publishes Of The Social Contract and Emile, or, on Education.

1772 Apprenticed to the engraver James Basire.

1776 American Declaration of Independence.

1779 Accepted as student at Royal Academy of Arts.

1782 Marries Catherine Boucher, daughter of a Battersea market gardener.

1783 Poetical Sketches, a series of lyrics Blake had been writing since 1769, is privately printed.

1784 Blake’s father dies.

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