"I Walk Weeping In The Pangs Of A Mothers Torment For Her Children": Women's Laments In The Poetry And Prophecies Of William Blake

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Journal Of Religious Ethics


Cross‐cultural scholarship in ritual studies on women's laments provides us with a fresh vantage point from which to consider the function of women and women's complaining voices in the epic poems of William Blake. In this essay, I interpret Thel, Oothoon, and Enitharmon as strong voices of experience that unleash some of Blake's most profound meditations on social, sexual, individual, and institutional forms of violence and injustice, offering what might aptly be called an ethics of witness. Tracing the performative function of Enion, Jerusalem, Vala, and Erin in Blake's later epics, and , I argue for the close connection between the female laments and the possibility of redemption, though in Blake such “redemption” comes at the cost of the very voices of witness themselves.