Exploring random profanity and negative theology in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

A new article by Neslihan Şentürk Uzun examines Blake's subversive semiotics in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Volume 3, issue 2 of the World Language Studies is released today and includes an article by Neslihan Şentürk Uzun, "Negative Theology, Random Profanity, and Subversive Semiotics in William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell":

The focus of this study is an examination of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790) by William Blake (1757-1827), the English poet and engraver, aiming to demonstrate its provocative exploration of language and semiotic paradigms. By navigating through the expanse of Blake’s revolutionary and semiotic approaches, it seeks to shed light on his deliberate subversion of politically charged, traditional linguistic and religious norms during the Romantic period. Additionally, the study underscores the pivotal role of “negative theology” and “random profanity” – essentially, an unorthodox treatment of religious experience and an outright departure from expected communication norms in a religious context, respectively – within Blake’s narrative, examining Blake’s adept fusion of the sacred and the profane to disrupt conventional semiotic frameworks. The study specifically notes that The Marriage of Heaven and Hell itself is an attempt to invert not only the so-called one-to-one correspondence between the sign and the meaning it refers to, but also the binaries that are culturally conceived as contrasting and incongruous. In pursuit of these objectives, this paper aims to draw thought-provoking parallels between Blake’s subversive linguistic techniques and the semiotic theories advanced by St. Augustine (354-430) and C. S. Peirce (1839-1914). It accentuates Blake’s deliberate deviation from such fixed signs methodologies as put forth by St. Augustine, pointing out the consonance between Blake’s approach and Peirce’s dynamic triadic model of signification. Ultimately, the study endeavours to elucidate how Blake’s disruptive linguistic position in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell not only contests customary sign systems but also actively fosters interpretations that are not only profound but subversive as well. Serving as a crucial conduit, Blake’s seminal work serves as a significant bridge connecting established semiotic conventions with the dynamic semiotic vision posited by C. S. Peirce, ultimately fostering a more nuanced and expansive apprehension of Blake’s literary and philosophical legacies.

Neslihan Şentürk Uzun is a graduate of King's College London & Humboldt University Berlin.

The article is available at World Language Studies. (Open access.)