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Vol. 49 no. 1: Summer 2015

Roderick Tweedy, The God of the Left Hemisphere: Blake, Bolte Taylor, and the Myth of Creation

  • James Rovira
10 June 2015
10 Jun. 2015 — Updated on 21 Mar. 2022


Roderick Tweedy’s The God of the Left Hemisphere compares the attributes of Blake’s Urizen to the characteristics of left-brain-dominated minds, suggesting that Blake’s mythology anticipates the claims of contemporary neurologists who study the lateralization of brain functions. Tweedy’s work is based upon the premise that Blake’s descriptions of Urizen are in fact descriptions of the operations of the brain’s left hemisphere, a claim supported by his appendix, “The Symbolism of Left and Right in Blake’s Work.” His study was inspired by a TED talk delivered by Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroanatomist currently affiliated with Indiana University, who, during her time at Harvard University, suffered a hemorrhage on the left side of her brain. Taylor believes this experience gave her insights both into the human brain and into the possibilities for the transformation of human life and experience, insights that are the subject of her talk and of her 2008 book, My Stroke of Insight (Viking). Drawing from Taylor, Chris McManus’s Right Hand, Left Hand (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2002), and Iain McGilchrist’s The Master and His Emissary (Yale UP, 2009), Tweedy paints a picture of left-brain psychology as dominating, hyperrational, moralistic, egocentric, and highly destructive (39), in comparison to right-brain psychology, which is “completely committed to the expression of peace, love, joy, and compassion in the world” (Taylor, quoted in Tweedy 41). The book is an engaging, journalistic treatment of its subject that would be most interesting to a general readership.