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Theatres of contention: vital instability in the poetry of Byron and Shelley

ANDERSON, MARK,RICHARD (2017) Theatres of contention: vital instability in the poetry of Byron and Shelley. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis explores the poetry of Byron and Shelley, emphasising their individual responses to shared poetic challenges. In particular, it examines the phenomenon of ‘instability’ of meaning in their work, arguing that such instability takes expressive forms more various and subtle than has hitherto been explored.

Broadly but not restrictively formalist in approach, the thesis offers a reading of the poems as, in part, enactive explorations of the possibilities and constraints of poetic making, to an extent which sets Byron and Shelley apart from other Romantic poets. Building on and, when appropriate, offering a critique of the work of critics fascinated by the poets’ language, particularly those writing in a New Critical and post-structuralist tradition, the thesis contends that by viewing the poems as explorations of the paradoxical possibilities of poetic limitation we might more readily see the ways in which they assert resistance to some of the critical characterisations ascribed to them.

By placing the two poets in a single study the thesis seeks to show patterns of affinity and difference. Its structure and organisation support this aim. The Introduction describes the method and contents of the thesis. Chapters One and Two examine enactments of instability within, respectively, the early cantos of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and three Shelleyan lyrics. Chapter Three focuses on water and ruin as figurative vehicles for Byron’s complex attitude to substantiality, identity and relation. Chapters Four and Five examine how instability is explored through image-making in Alastor and Epipsychidion, and text-making in Don Juan’s middle cantos. Chapter Six examines Prometheus Unbound’s relation with relation itself; it also examines the lyrical drama’s treatment of articulation and non-articulation, concepts central to the new reading of Don Juan’s English cantos offered in Chapter Seven, as Byron responds to the encroaching limitations of mobility and poetic expression.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Byron; Shelley; instability; mobility; Don Juan; Childe Harold's Pilgrimage; Prometheus Unbound; Hymn to Intellectual Beauty; Mont Blanc; Alastor; Epipsychidion; Ode to the West Wind
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2017
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:01 Feb 2018 10:53

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