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The Constitution of Shelley's Poetry

The Constitution of Shelley's Poetry: The Argument of Language in Prometheus Unbound

EDWARD T. DUFFY
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Anthem Press
Pages: 304
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1gxpc9p
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  • Book Info
    The Constitution of Shelley's Poetry
    Book Description:

    The Constitution of Shelleys Poetry is a close philosophical reading of Prometheus Unbound from the perspective of the argument or drama of language played out in its pages.

    eISBN: 978-1-84331-824-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS (pp. ix-x)
  4. NOTE ON PARENTHETICAL CITATIONS (pp. xi-xii)
  5. INTRODUCTION A Philosophical Poet (of Ordinary Language) (pp. xiii-xxxiv)

    I began this project more than twenty years ago, confident that Shelley’s immeasurable stake in the constitutive power of language could provide the Ariadne’s thread through the verbal labyrinth ofPrometheus Unbound. With no little measure of arrogance, I thought a new reading of Shelley’s lyrical drama was needed, and that I was the one to do it. But this ambition of providing a reading for a major work by canonical poet was rapidly going out of fashion. In the emerging post-structuralist climate of the promising and attractive “linguistic turn,” such readings had only a limited and subordinate place. With...

  6. Chapter 1 THE EVERLASTING UNIVERSE OF THINGS AS SHELLEY FOUND IT IN 1816: “MONT BLANC” AND “HYMN TO INTELLECTUAL BEAUTY” (pp. 1-32)

    Although Shelley’s “Mont Blanc” is a difficult poem that has elicited widely differing interpretations, its readers have arrived at several generally accepted points of agreement about its significance and place in the Shelley canon. It is, for example, routinely assumed that this poem and “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty” are to be taken together, the one “sister” to the other.² In her edition of Shelley’s lyrics, Judith Chernaik defines at least five other major and interrelated elements of a partial critical consensus still securely in place: 1) the revelation of “Mont Blanc” is the negative one that the “Power” is “not...

  7. Chapter 2 WHERE SHELLEY WROTE AND WHAT HE WROTE FOR: THE SIGNATURE OF “ODE TO THE WEST WIND” (pp. 33-56)

    Repeatedly in his prose speculations, Shelley insists upon the undifferentiated chaos we habitually make of our semantic and semiotic fields. When a linguistic community inevitably cannot sustain what the “Defence” calls the, “vitally metaphorical language of poetry,” it disorganizes a system of manifest relations into the opacity of dead metaphor. The process is nicely defined as “semantic entropy” by John Wright,² and against this collective backsliding Shelley would frame his utterance so as to

    [reduce] the mind to that freedom in which it would have acted, but for the misuse of words and signs, the instruments of its own creation.—...

  8. Chapter 3 KNOWING WHAT WE DO (WITH WORDS): ACT I OF PROMETHEUS UNBOUND (pp. 57-94)

    The first imitated action ofPrometheus Unboundshows its title character doing something very appropriate for a divinity said to have, “[given] man speech, and speech created thought,/Which is the measure of the Universe” (II.iv. 72–3). It shows an uncharacteristically forgetful Prometheus struggling toward the fully recalled (and reheard) words of a curse he knows himself to have once uttered. And then when Earth responds to her dismayed son’s, “Were these my words, O Parent?” with a terse, “They were thine,” he disowns them:

    It doth repent me: words are quick and vain;

    Grief for awhile is blind, and...

  9. Chapter 4 RECOUNTING REVERSES, RECOVERING THE INITIATIVE: ACT II OF PROMETHEUS UNBOUND (pp. 95-148)

    At the close of Act I, a new day dawning prompted a Panthea “who loves” to leave Prometheus and seek out Asia. Now in response, an Asia with her eyes fixed on the same “point…[of the morning star] quivering still/Deep in the orange light of widening morn” implores her sister “wear[ing]/The shadow of that soul by which I live” (30–31) not to delay any longer but to come:

    This is the season, this the day, the hour;

    At sunrise thou shouldst come, sweet sister mine…

    Too long desired, too long delaying, come!… (13–15)

    Act I starts out with...

  10. Chapter 5 THE CONGREGATED POWERS OF LANGUAGE: ACT III OF PROMETHEUS UNBOUND (pp. 149-192)

    About the opening scene of Act III ofPrometheus Unbound, there is general agreement that it “is an example of irony in the classical sense in which everything the speaker says is true, but in a way that he does not comprehend” (NS256). The “fatal child” of Jupiter’s eager anticipation will be fatal to him, not for him. Drunk with power and sexually aroused, Jupiter calls for Idaean Ganymede to “fill the daedal cups” and for a “wide voice” of exultation to rise up circling into a full-throated plenum of song and celebration. But in reality this tyrant of...

  11. Chapter 6 RESOUNDING CELEBRATIONS AND CONSTRAINING COMMISSIONS: ACT IV OF PROMETHEUS UNBOUND (pp. 193-240)

    Whether the fourth act ofPrometheus Unboundis grand finale or sublime afterthought, its internal character suggests that what urged Shelley toward its composition in the spring of 1819 was the desire to produce an appropriately magnificent celebration for all the blessings attendant on the union of Prometheus and Asia. As befits their standing as the parents and originals of all this “boundless, overflowing bursting gladness” (320), neither Asia nor Prometheus plays any role in this ceremony of praise. This play within the play is performed not by the two principals ofPrometheus Unbound, but for them and their regenerative...

  12. Coda A VOICE TO BE ACCOMPLISHED (pp. 241-246)

    Stanley Cavell has repeatedly affirmed that in the example and teaching of John Austin he found his philosophical voice or “the track of it” and that this new-found voice was itself pitched toward “[bringing] the human voice back into philosophy.”¹ Drawn down this path in his philosophical calling, Cavell soon found himself attracted to a body of romantic literature, in the breath of whose being he, in turn, heard an aspiration toward “the recovery of the (of my) (ordinary) (human) voice.”² Cavell’s “sense that the voice [had] become lost in thought”³ eventually led to his remarkable contention that the splendors...

  13. NOTES (pp. 247-260)
  14. BIBLIOGRAPHY (pp. 261-266)
  15. INDEX (pp. 267-270)