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Shelley's Apocalypticism: A Study of the Human Mind's Imaginings, 1818-1822

SCIGLIANO-SUAREZ, LUCIA (2021) Shelley's Apocalypticism: A Study of the Human Mind's Imaginings, 1818-1822. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Apocalypse and millennium are often discussed in relation to Percy Bysshe Shelley’s works, but there remains little sustained, in-depth analysis that singularises and magnifies their significance for his thought. This thesis offers a substantial reassessment of Shelley’s thought by correlating the understanding of apocalypse and millennium to the study of the poet’s apocalypticism, the symbolic universe through which to understand and discuss one’s existence and ideas of futurity. This thesis demonstrates the importance of understanding Shelley’s apocalyptic-eschatological perspective for a comprehensive, nuanced study of his conceptions of morality, violence, history, and religion.
Chapter one analyses the expression of Shelley’s apocalyptic-eschatological perspective in 'The Mask of Anarchy' (composed 1819), reconsidering the controversy that underlies the (perceived) dichotomy between the poem’s violent tones and its pacifist message, to emphasise that Shelley’s vision, rather than being ambiguous, understands pacifism as different from passivity. Chapter two reads ‘Ode to the West Wind’ (1820) and fragments often neglected in criticism – ‘Orpheus’ (composed 1821), ‘The Coliseum’ (composed 1818), and 'Fragments of an Unfinished Drama' (composed 1822) – to focus on Shelley’s Temples of Nature, spaces whose millennial promise is problematised by his inexorable, yet optimistic, scepticism. Chapter three studies 'Adonais'’s (1821) subversion of the traditional association of death and darkness, considering death as the millennial state of the human soul, and proposing, in this context, the kaleidoscope as a framework, hitherto unconsidered, through which to understand Shelley’s famous image of life as ‘a dome of many-coloured glass’. Chapter four explores 'Prometheus Unbound' (1820) to appreciate Shelley’s questioning and rejection of institutionalised forms of authority that subjugate the human intellect and will, and illustrate his composite vision of apocalypse and millennium. The coda examines 'Hellas' (1822) for the ways in which it extends discussions raised in previous chapters, especially Shelley’s understanding of pacifism and violence, and his considerations on the cycles of history.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2021
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:09 Sep 2021 10:11

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