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Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Poetic Conversations with Islam (1814-1818): Theological and Philosophical Contemplations

ABICHOU, ALEXANDER (2020) Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Poetic Conversations with Islam (1814-1818): Theological and Philosophical Contemplations. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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My thesis examines Shelley’s usage of Islamic tropes and Qur’anic symbolism in order to further poeticise his belief that through the revision and combination of mythic patterns poetry could produce an ameliorative effect on the evolution of human consciousness. By combining his Eastern-inspired poetics with his ruminations on interanimation, Shelley consolidates the faith within a mythographic schema where concepts are reinterpreted through the meandering lineage of tradition. I argue a deeper understanding of the Islamic tradition on a theological and philosophical level will help contextualise his mythopoetics as an exploration of how communal sign systems can meaningfully revise previous myths without dogmatic overtones. The structure of the thesis is centred on Shelley’s poetic engagement with Islam during the years of 1814-18; part one examines The Assassins from an Ismaili perspective and draws links between Shelley’s melodic strain of poets and the Imamate chain of hierophants whilst also investigating the significance of using Muslim figures as a means of expressing his own enthusiastic world-historical call for reform. Part two explores Alastor; or, The Spirit of Solitude from a sufistic perspective by offsetting the paradoxical relation between lover and Beloved in Hafez and Rumi’s poetry against the Shelleyan dynamic between poet and muse whilst offering a comparative analysis of Shelley’s allegorical commentary on material idealism with Ibn Tufayl’s natural mysticism. Part three delves into The Revolt of Islam as a revolution of, rather than against, the titular faith by assessing how Shelley reimagines two concepts (the Book of Fate and Holy War): the former transfigures Ash’arite fatalistic atomism where Power and miracles rule into a Lucretian materialistic form of atomism where birth and decay is not governed by transcendent forces but fissures within organic processes; the latter adapts Sunni historiography regarding the conquest of Mecca and rewrites Muhammad’s revolution into Laon and Cythna’s Oriental uprising.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Percy Shelley Islam Romanticism Theology Comparative Literature Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2020
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:01 May 2020 11:03

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