Skip to main navigation menu Skip to main content Skip to site footer


Vol. 47 no. 1: Summer 2013

Christopher Rowland, Blake and the Bible

  • Linda Freedman
23 May 2013
23 May. 2013


Christopher Rowland’s deeply scholarly account of William Blake’s relationship with the Bible marks Blake out as a theologian as well as a poet and artist. At the heart of the book is a fascination with biblical exegesis as an imaginative activity, and it is this that makes Rowland’s work a truly valuable contribution to Blake studies and to the growing body of critical literature that takes the relationship between literature and theology as its subject. Notwithstanding a strong literary interest, Rowland’s objectives are clearly theological. He writes, “Engagement with [Blake’s] work reshapes the way in which one reads the Bible, views and experiences the world, and for that matter, God” (1). By developing and nuancing our understanding of Blake’s sense of the way text participates in affective religion, he shows how reading Blake might perform such immense tasks. Rather than encouraging us to see text as simply the dead letter of Urizenic law, Rowland takes on one of the fundamental contraries in Blake’s art and tackles the idea of text as a living body, born again in each imaginative interpretation, and effective insofar as it is affective for the individual reader.