This essay reads William Blake's illuminated work Jerusalem: The Emanation of The Giant Albion as a key instance of living (or organic) form conceived according to biological principles in the period of Romantic vitalism, 1760––1830. At this time, the Aristotelian theory of epigenesis was revived in the European scientific community as a way to comprehend embryogenesis as a process of self-generation motivated by internal, vital power. This theory, current in the science of generation, conflicted with another theory called "preformation," which was closer to a creationist view of organic life. A careful look at the kind of material organizations made possible by vital power (a concept that went by various names, from vis essentialis to Lebenskraft to Bildungstrieb) reveals these to be relevant to the aesthetic organization of Jerusalem. Organic form, despite received wisdom, did not always entail closure or the ideology of "reproduction." Instead, modeling the power of regeneration, Blake develops a unique brand of epigenesist poetics.
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