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Lecture 16

ENG3318 Lecture 16: Percy Bysshe Shelley - first lecture

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Elaine Bailey

Percy Bysshe Shelley – Lecture 16  Born 1792, died 1822  Privileged childhood with classical education  Politically radical – always surrounded by conservatives, but he was not (very left). Belief in rights of women, free love, vegetarian, rights of irish  Expulsion from Oxford for The Necessity of Atheism – had he retracted his statement, he could have stayed  Married Mary Godwin (1816) (2 wife) – also left o Very like-minded. Tragedies created rift that never healed o She celebrated his memory by being editor of his work  Friendship with Byron Reason vs. Imagination  857: “reason is the enumeration of quantities already known; imagination is the perception of the value of these qualities, both separately and as a whole. Reason respects the differences, and imagination the similarities of things. Reason is to imagination as the instrument to the agent, as the body to the spirit, as the shadow to the substance.” o Reason more like tool. Imagination comes first, reason distillation tool o Imagination finds unexpected connections  858 “[Poetic Language] marks the before unapprehend … purposes of human discourse.” o Why do we need new poets? Why can’t we just rely on old greats?  Relevance to the time  Poet taps into universal, for all time  You cannot rely on someone in the past creating metaphors for you  Forces us to see fresh a dead metaphor  Necessary for human mind to see something new  Have to become unfamiliar or else nothing will change. Limits of Utility  “Undoubtedly the promoters of utility .. superior powers” (863?)  864 – addressing problem of his time: overly utilitarian  Division of labour factory helps. It’s very utilitarian o Shelley: these people are only interested in very narrow point of society Political Implications  “Poetry and imagination forces us to confront limitations of utilitarian front.”  Imagination sees value. Widening Gap  Rich have become richer, poor have become poorer – Utilitarianism  If we cover privilege reason, we’re going to lack social community Value of Imagination  Synthesis and perception of value in human terms – Reason formulates into rules what imagination perceives  Creation of order and harmony  Prophecy or foresight  Insight or penetration of superficial appearances  Sympathy (or love) – improve sense of compassion o Put self-interests aside Shelley on defamiliarization  “Life, the great miracle, we admire not, because it is so miraculous. It is well that we are thus shielded by the familiarity … which is its object.” (“On Life” [ea. 1812-14? Pub. 1832]) o distill sense of complacency “Ode to the West Wind”  written 1819, published 1819, different
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