Sociological Criticism of William Blake’s Poetry

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Sociological criticism analyzes the political, economic, and cultural aspects of literature. To examine literature from the perspective of Marxist social theory is a quintessential form of sociological criticism, as Marxism primarily deals with political and economic ideas of communism and social inequality. William Blake, a Romantic poet, frequently wrote on the topic of class oppression and his opposition to the exploitation of the proletariat by the capitalists. Blake’s ideology and preference towards an equalitarian society quite closely mirror the theories of Karl Marx. Analyzing Blake’s poetry from a Marxist perspective paints a clearer picture of the motives behind Blake’s anger towards social inequality. Poems such as “The Chimney Sweeper” and “London” from his poetry collections Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience illustrate Blake’s despair regarding the unjust and unequal society of 18th century England. In “The Chimney Sweeper,” Blake expresses his anger at the late 18th and 19th century's use of child labor in urban England. In “London,” Blake illustrates the depressing class oppression prevalent in the streets of the city.

Often considered by scholars as the greatest pioneer of the Romantic movement in English literature, Blake's poetry consistently embraces the idea of rebellion against the abuse of class power. In his lifetime, Blake encountered both the American and French revolutions and the sense of liberation in both revolutions influenced him heavily. The negative effects of the Industrial Revolution, which further polarized the income distribution among the rich and the poor, further concerned Blake. The British Marxist historian E.P. Thompson classified Blake as having many similar beliefs as Karl M...

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