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Title: The philosophy of death in the poetry of William Wordsworth and Percy Bysshe Shelley
Author: Lacey, Andrew
ISNI:       0000 0004 2726 9878
Awarding Body: Newcastle University
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2012
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The one aim of those who practice philosophy in the proper manner’, says Socrates in Phaedo, ‘is to practice for dying and death’. From its earliest beginnings, philosophy has sought to illuminate the phenomenon of death, and there is a rich body of writing on the subject. William Wordsworth and Percy Bysshe Shelley are, I posit, the most death-facing of the Romantics, and that both expressed a desire to write ‘philosophical poetry’ at various stages in their poetic careers sets them somewhat apart from their peers. Fundamentally, this thesis explores Wordsworth’s and Shelley’s rich and varied philosophical thinking on the common subject of death over the period 1798-1821. More theoretically, and advancing the view that reading poetry and philosophy in parallel is of mutually illuminating benefit, it makes new cross-connections between traditionally separate categories (death in poetry, and death in philosophy), and thus attests to an often underappreciated commonality of traditions. In Chapters 1 and 2, on Wordsworth, I trace a death-focused intellectual trajectory from Lyrical Ballads (1798-1800) to The Excursion (1814), and find the progression, from typically ‘earlier’ to ‘later’ thinking, to be both distinct and fairly linear. In Chapters 3 and 4, I read Queen Mab; A Philosophical Poem: with Notes (1813), Alastor; or, The Spirit of Solitude: and Other Poems (1816), and Adonais (1821), and show Shelley’s always-impassioned attitudes towards death to be in a state of marked flux over the course of eight highly productive years. I identify a hitherto overlooked circularity in Shelley’s thinking on death which is not present in Wordsworth’s, and conclude by stressing, in light of my readings of the poems, the particular appropriateness of the poetic form as a means of exploring the phenomenon of death.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council ; British Association for Romantic Studies ; Newcastle University
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available