Shelley's idea of nature : a study of the interrelationship of subject and object in the major poems
The thesis offers an interpretation of Shelley's poetry which focuses on his treatment of external nature. Its main argument is that a subject-object dialectic lies at the basis of his thought and style. Manifesting itself as a tension and oscillation between dualist and monist tendencies, this dialectic underlies the opposing strains of thought associated with his sceptical idealism; it informs the relationship between various contraries with which he is recurrently concerned, such as reason and feeling, necessity and freedom, language and thought; and it accounts for some major characteristics of his style--for example, its self-reflexiveness, indeterminacy, and restless forward momentum. Nature is found to play a complex dual function in this dialectical process: first, as the circumference to the circle of which mind is the centre, it provides the material of thought and poetry; secondly, through its cyclic processes, it serves as an emblem of the mind's dynamic relationship with that material. In finding the characteristic thought-pattern of his poetry to be constituted of a creative-destructive interplay of contraries, the thesis contends that Shelley is a significant exponent of Romantic irony. Such a reading of his work mediates between an earlier tradition of interpreting him as a Platonising poet of nature and the more recent emphasis that has been given to his philosophical scepticism and political radicalism. Throughout, attention is given to the interacting influences of his direct experience of nature (as recorded mainly in his letters) and the representations of nature he encounters in his reading. The following poems, chosen for their importance in Shelley's canon and as clear illustrations of his treatment of nature, are discussed chronologically in successive chapters: Queen Mab, Master, the 1816 odes, Prometheus Unbound, Adonais, and The Triumph of Life.