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Worm WorkRecasting Romanticism$
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Janelle A. Schwartz

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780816673209

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816673209.001.0001

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“Art Thou but a Worm?” Blake and the Question Concerning Taxonomy

“Art Thou but a Worm?” Blake and the Question Concerning Taxonomy

(p.113) 4 “Art Thou but a Worm?” Blake and the Question Concerning Taxonomy
Worm Work

Janelle A. Schwartz

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter focuses on William Blake’s textual oeuvre about worms. They range from earthworm, glowworm, silkworm, and tapeworm to the more generic worm and its adjectival derivative, wormy. Understanding the Blakean worm, in its varied and variable applications, suggests a fluidity of form and sense working against reification while yet depending expressly on it. Analyzing the worm as an aesthetic figure made to represent the material consequences of existing in nature, the chapter demonstrates how and why the presentation of worms in Blake’s poetry gives way to a positive aesthetic of decay. The worm sutures the phases of decay and generation in such a way as to call attention to perpetual process as a defining characteristic of life.

Keywords:   William Blake, worms, earthworm, glowworm, silkworm, tapeworm

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