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The Pleasure of the Senses: The Art of Sensation in Shelley’s Poetics of Sensibility

KITANI, ITSUKI (2011) The Pleasure of the Senses: The Art of Sensation in Shelley’s Poetics of Sensibility. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis examines Shelley’s art of sensuous imagery, or poetics of sensibility. To elucidate Shelley’s concept of sensibility which links his poetry to its ethical and aesthetic concerns, I combine close textual readings of Shelley’s imagery of the senses with his intellectual and cultural inheritance from the ‘Age of Sensibility’ which encompasses ‘moral philosophy’ (ethics and aesthetics) and ‘natural philosophy’ (science).
Chapter I focuses on Shelley’s notions of sensuous pleasure and sympathy. _A Defence of Poetry_ is a pivotal text that expounds Shelley’s aesthetic and ethical taste, exemplified by his concept of sympathy. Taking up this argument, Chapter II investigates Shelley’s vegetarian politics in _Queen Mab_, rooted in what I call _(dis)gusto_, ‘taste’ in both its physical and aesthetic senses. Chapter III focuses on aural imagery in ‘Hymn to Intellectual Beauty’ and ‘Mont Blanc.’ Exploring the interplay between motion and emotion reveals how aesthetics and psychology, in Shelley’s lyrics, are associated with the vocalisation of poetic inspiration. Chapter IV considers the relation of sight to Shelley’s notion of the fragmentary in two ekphrastic texts concerned with visual representation, ‘The Coliseum’ and ‘On the Medusa of Leonardo da Vinci, In the Florentine Gallery,’ which illuminate Shelley’s idea of a circulating and sympathetic power that unifies humans or subject with object, alongside a fragmentary imperative within these texts. Chapter V investigates Shelley’s treatment of touch and Nature’s economy in ‘The Sensitive-Plant’ by juxtaposing Shelley’s poem with Erasmus Darwin’s cyclical system of Nature known as ‘organic happiness,’ which is recognised only by sympathetic sensibility. Chapter VI considers the intermingled imagery of scent and sympathetic love in _Epipsychidion_ in conjunction with Shelley’s theory of nervous vibrations influenced by eighteenth-century psycho-physiological discourses, mediated through the imagery of Venus, whose duality embodies the interrelations between sensuous pleasure and ideal beauty in Shelley’s poetics of sensibility.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Shelley, sensibility, sensation, close reading, aesthetics, natural philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2011
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:26 Aug 2011 08:59

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