Paul Hamilton

in The Oxford Handbook of Percy Bysshe Shelley

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199558360
Published online January 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature


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This chapter discusses Shelley's poetics, which receives definitive treatment in A Defence of Poetry. While sources for Shelley's ideas about poetry can be found in classical and near contemporary philosophical precedent, none of these provides a satisfactory account of the way he thinks about poetry. It is more helpful, the chapter shows, to present Shelley as fluent in the philosophical idioms of his day, a theorist articulating his own thoughts in a generally available speculative language. He can then be seen as unusually eclectic: from the sophisticated way he makes use of Lockean semiotics and Humean scepticism; from the way he deploys views about the interdependence through desire of the identity of self and other deriving from German idealism; from the way he also capitalizes on ideas of aesthetic education that Friedrich Schiller had put high on the philosophical agenda. Just as Shelley's poetry is profoundly European in its erudition and setting, so his theory shows its pedigree more in its practice than by explicit reference.

Keywords: Percy Bysshe Shelley; English poets; Romantic poets; theory of poetry; Defence of Poetry

Article.  8324 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (19th Century) ; Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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