THE LIMIT OF OPAKENESS
Blake announces a regular feature to be called “The Limit of Opakeness.” It will consist of one or more brief articles that attempt to solve a Blakean crux.
With each issue we shall propose one or two difficult short passages and invite essays of no more than 750 words each. What is a crux for one person, of course, may seem easy to another, and some of our passages will strike some readers as poor choices. For that reason we will welcome suggestions. We may even print a consensus list of opaque passages.
Many of us Blake scholars remember first reading some of the magisterial critics and wondering how they came to know everything so confidently (and why they passed over in silence just those passages that were bothering us); they were as intimidating as they were inspiring. Some of us still hate to admit we can’t figure certain passages out. “The Limit of Opakeness” will encourage candor and collaboration, and it ought to be rewarding to diminish Satan’s domain bit by bit, issue by issue.
We welcome any and all approaches and will judge them all by the same rough standard: do they seem to clear up the difficulty to any appreciable extent? We recognize that some schools of criticism might find this a retrograde enterprise and offer to deconstruct the opposition between crux and “easy” passage. Let them do so, and if in the process they actually throw light on what we call a crux, we’ll publish their essays, too. We ask only that the writing be clear and succinct: there is no Limit of Translucence.
This feature will run on a trial basis, and will last as long as good articles are submitted. We might set design cruxes as well (and welcome suggestions for them), but at first we will confine ourselves to the words.
For the first round, we invite essays on either of two passages from the “Bard’s Song” of Milton 5:39-41 (on Charles, Milton, Cromwell, and James) and 8:11-12 (Los puts his left sandal on his head).
Please send contributions to Michael Ferber, Department of English, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824. He will give them a first reading and then confer with the editors over which of them will be published.