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Promethean Forms of Grief in the Works of Byron, P.B. Shelley and Leopardi

MARCHIONNI, FRANCESCO (2023) Promethean Forms of Grief in the Works of Byron, P.B. Shelley and Leopardi. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Drawing on Nietzsche’s views of Prometheus and archival material on Romantic Europe from Nietzsche’s Nachlass, my thesis investigates the notion of Prometheanism as an aesthetic phenomenon and a Zeitgeist that illuminates Byron, Shelley and Leopardi’s meditations on art and subjectivity. My study shows how Byron, Shelley and Leopardi’s visionary navigations of truth and knowledge stumble on a series of moral riddles about art and its hovering between real and ideal that problematise the premises of their poetic quests for truth and knowledge. My introductory chapter suggests that Nietzsche’s views of Prometheus are informed by his reading of Byron, Shelley and Leopardi, as exhibited in Nietzsche’s letters (and an unpublished essay on Byron) in which Nietzsche celebrates these Romantic poets. Chapter 1 examines the imaginative reconfigurations of Aeschylus’s Prometheus Bound in Byron’s Canto I and II of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and ‘Prometheus’ to elaborate on a form of scepticism and self-modelling discourse central to Byronic poetics. Chapter 2 explores Byronic subjectivity as performative in Canto III and IV of Childe Harold, Manfred and Cain to trace out what is conceived of as Byron’s Promethean tragic identity. Chapters 3 and 4 turn to Shelley’s own Promethean dilemma. In Chapter 3, this difficulty centres on Shelley’s treatment of the tensions between the self and states of being and becoming as registered in the visionary accounts of Alastor and Julian and Maddalo, and his eventual attempt to transcend the subject beyond the realm of being and be one with a process of becoming in Prometheus Unbound. Chapter 4, however, examines the darker aspects of Shelleyan visionary quests and Shelley’s awareness of a tragic realization, latent in early poems, but foregrounded in Epipsychdion, Adonais and The Triumph of Life. Considering a sense of grief modelled on the Promethean topos in an Italian context, Chapter 5 delineates Leopardi’s philological methodology to view modernity in the light of classical culture and to disclose the moral stakes of Promethean techné in Alla Primavera and La scommessa di Prometeo. In a reading of Operette Morali and Canti, chapter 6 illustrates the premises of Leopardi’s nihilism that utilises lyricism to endure the nullity of existence. Finally, a coda briefly sketches the Promethean bequest of Byron, Shelley and Leopardi in later literary traditions.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2023
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:30 May 2023 15:24

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