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Title: Shelley and the revolutionary sublime
Author: Duffy, C.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2001
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The dissertation explores the relationship between the sublime and the revolutionary in Shelley's work. It rejects conventional attempts to locate Shelley's interest in the natural sublime within a perceived movement away from radical empiricism towards an increasingly apolitical philosophical idealism, and disputes the historical validity of reading that interest alongside Immanuel Kant's Critique of Judgement (Leighton, Endo). Shelley's interest in natural grandeur is rather read as an engagement with the eighteenth-century British discourse on the natural sublime. More precisely, the dissertation argues that Shelley was concerned to revise the conventional, pious and theistic configuration of that discourse along politically radical and epistemologically sceptical lines, and documents the history of this concern in his oeuvre. Shelley's engagement with the discourse on the sublime was premised, it is argued, upon the notion of a 'wise' or educated imagination, an imagination 'considerably tinctured with science and enlarged by cultivation' (A Refutation of Deism). Such an imagination reads the landscape of the natural sublime not as evidence of God's immanent presence in creation, but as exhibiting systematic natural processes which expose the artificiality - the un-naturalness - of the current political order. A major corollary of the dissertation, then, is the claim that the concept of the 'legislating' imagination that informs Shelley's Defence of Poetry was worked out - and can only be fully understood - within the context of a lifelong engagement with the discourse on the sublime. However the dissertation also shows that Shelley's engagement with the discourse on the sublime was far from unambiguously successful. Conversely, it traces the highly problematic intersection of that engagement with Shelley's ostensibly gradualist politics. Shelley's early qualms about the political affiliations of extreme affect quickly gave way to a confidence in the political potency of the 'cultivated imagination'.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available