Mark Truscott

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Donald Goellnicht




This thesis uses Heidegger' s Being and Time to read Blake's The Book of Thel as one character's search for the meaning of the Being which characterizes all things. The introduction shows that Thel realizes that the metaphysical characterization of Being as 'simply self-evident' in its substantiality in beings is questionable inasmuch as this view is not able to answer her questions about her own apparent 'ontological nebulousness,' her own being "like a watry bow." The possibility of this indeterminacy comes to Thel's attention as she stands in the face of a glimpse of the ever-present, certain, and immanent possibility of her death which can happen at any time. This possibility tells her that her ownmost potentiality in Being is to not-be. From this point, Thel begins to question the metaphysical representation of Being in beings in general. And, as chapter one shows, this questionability casts Thel's world into the mood of an anxious questioning,' which sets her on her way to an encounter with the Being she is asking about. Chapter two shows that in order to arrive at such an encounter, Thel' s 'anxious questioning' must cast off the metaphysical world-view into which Thel has grown. This proves no easy task. The Lilly, the Cloud, and, at first, the Clod of Clay work to prevent this casting off from taking place. These characters, who represent the metaphysical 'public' of which Thel is part in her everyday existence, attempt to keep Thel within the bounds of their 'public' use of language which·necessarily passes over Being. Thel is only able to escape this domination for long enough to repeat her question in a number of different contexts, and to partially disclose the death which she always is, before finally letting go of her anxiety. She therefore misunderstands her initial glimpse of her own ontological nebulousness, and discloses her Being as an object of fear--which is, as such, necessarily a metaphysical representation. The conclusion shows that The Book of Thel illuminates failings or oversights in Being and Time through its very narrativity. Blake's poem stands in the region of narrative thought while Heidegger's analysis falls victim to a overshadowing methodology.

McMaster University Library

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