Christian Romanticism : T.S. Eliot's response to Percy Bysshe Shelley
This thesis presents a reading of T. S. Eliot's response to the work of Percy Bysshe Shelley, focusing on Eliot's Christian faith and the role it played in this response. Chapter One shows how Shelley was a great influence on Eliot's early work and how, after his Christian conversion, Eliot repudiated his influence. The chapter will show how previous readings of Eliot's relations with Romanticism have tended to centre on a Bloomian poetic 'anxiety of influence'. 1 will then offer my religious reading of Eliot's thought, and show how the period of initial repudiation gives way to a rapprochement with past poetic influences, as Eliot eventually accommodates past influences into his Christian scheme. Chapter Two examines the ways in which Shelley and Eliot address the issue of self-consciousness and our inherent sense of isolation. Chapter Three looks at the treatment of human love m the work of both poets. In both cases, Shelley desires, unsuccessfully, some release from selfhood, either in social communion or with an ideal lover. It is only with the adoption of a divine perspective that human relations can be set in context - something that Eliot came to realise in his later work. Chapter Four looks at the way the two poets reacted to the work of Dante, stressing that Eliot's Christian faith enabled him to relate to Dante's work in a way that Shelley, although appropriating Dantean motifs in his own work, could never fully attain. Chapter Five looks at the way both Eliot and Shelley address the fundamental shortcomings of language, showing how Eliot, in the years after his conversion, could be reconciled to linguistic shortfall because he could relate it to a higher, divine reality. Shelley, like Eliot in his early years, was vexed by this problem because he did not have the faith that offered a transcendent view of it. A concluding section draws together these chapters and sums up my reading of Eliot’s faith, and the extent to which it affected his response to the work of Shelley.