New student guide: William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience

William Blake (1757–1827) is one of the most significant figures in the history of English poetry. He is also one of the most mysterious, most challenging, and most frequently misunderstood. His Songs of Innocence and of Experience, on the surface so simple, are laden with mysteries that seem to deepen on every reading.

In this book, aimed at A Level and undergraduate students, Brendan Cooper explores the subtleties and contradictions of the Songs, avoiding formulaic readings by asking key questions about Blake’s life and art. What are the Songs about? What does Blake mean by «Innocence» and «Experience»? Why are they called «Songs»? Was Blake a genius, or a madman?

This engaging and accessible introduction to Blake’s work will help students to navigate its complexities and develop their own critical responses to the text.

Available for purchase here.

Brendan Cooper read English at Downing College, Cambridge, where he also completed a PhD in American Literature. He is the author of Dark Airs: John Berryman and the Spiritual Politics of Cold War American Poetry (2009), as well as numerous articles and chapters on twentieth-century American and British literature. He is presently Head of English at Eton College.

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