chapter  3
18 Pages

“Take Thy Bliss”: Surplus Enjoyment and Oothoon’s Joy in Blake’s Visions of the Daughters of Albion

WithDaniela Garofalo

If late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century periodicals for women tended to emphasize the need to stimulate desire by eroticizing loss and self-denial, Blake insisted on excess and enjoyment. This chapter examines this resistance and Blake's interest in enthusiasm and excess in Blake's Visions of the Daughters of Albion (1793), a poem that offers a thorough going critique of a modern economy and the desires it solicits. Blake excoriates the type of erotic and consumer desire that demands not only sacrifice, but also the worship of an Other who jealously denies enjoyment. The male characters in the poem demand that the heroine, Oothoon, submit to a form of enjoyment presided over by Urizen, the figure in Blake's poetry for an oppressive big Other. Yet, Oothoon, who appears as both a literal slave and as a woman enslaved to a patriarchal system, attempts to articulate an alternative erotics that requires neither subordination, nor the deferral of enjoyment.