Blake’s aesthetic messianism : multimodal art as the rhetoric of transformation.



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Through the creation of multimodal texts featuring coexisting visual and written art, William Blake embeds his principle of contrariety that dominates his Illuminated prophecies. Contrary forces held in opposition for Blake produces an energy generated from the tension that exists between the two opposing forces. This energy produces a similar effect between the multimodal text and the reader/viewer who encounters it. This emphasis on readers’ roles in the text emphasizes the diversity and multiplicity of human interconnectedness. This interconnectedness comes from the transformation of the inward soul by participating in artistic creation. Blake elevates the previously marginalized visual art, previously marginalized as inferior by 18th-century theorists, to equal footing with literary and verbal art. The two forms engage in contrariety that creates interpretive gaps that readers must negotiate. Through this negotiation Blake’s desired revolution can occur, a revolution driven by individual transformation via aesthetic redemption. I propose a framework of aesthetic messianism to explicate the stages modeled in Blake’s multimodal art and the desired redemptive revolution. Blake’s vision for revolution begins with individuals overcoming their narrow perceptions to connect with others, all by means of creation and aesthetic expression. Blake models this process, acting as a messianic figure, a progressive painter, prophet, priest, and performer. Ultimately, the creative tension encourages the reader to participate in creative interpretation of existing texts, creative production of new texts, and finally repeating the same process with their own texts through creative revision.