Shelley's Sciences

Marilyn Gaull

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

Shelley's Sciences

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  • Literary Studies (19th Century)
  • Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)



This chapter discusses Shelley's engagement with the sciences. As a poet, Shelley helped disseminate the scientific experiences of his day to his contemporaries and to his heirs even into the twentieth century. In his representations of the major ideas of Romantic science – the cyclical and evolutionary concept of life, the secularization of nature, the indeterminacy of scientific speculation, the relatedness of all things, the displacement of human beings – he helped change the narrative of natural history from a linear and hierarchical one into a recurrent and reciprocal one, and helped change the human role from observer to participant in nature. Shelley appealed to scientists such as Russell, Whitehead, King-Hele, and Cameron, who sensed a kindred spirit in him. For poets, he identified the beauty in the sciences, the shared mysteries, the common creative experiences, and the power of art.

Keywords: Percy Bysshe Shelley; English poets; Romantic poets; Romantic science

Article.  8644 words. 

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

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