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Title: Utopia unbound : imagined futures in Shelley’s poetry
Author: Quayle, Jonathan Alexander Dickon
ISNI:       0000 0004 7229 9697
Awarding Body: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis re-evaluates the importance of Shelley’s utopianism, tracing the emergence and development of utopian currents of thought across Iris oeuvre. Through close readings of several major poems, I examine the evolution of Shelley’s utopian thought, from the anticipated crisis moment of his recently rediscovered Poetical Essay (1811), and the ecstatic, timeless utopia of Queen Mab (1813), to the dynamic, unfinished “utopia” of Prometheus Unbound (1820), and the still more challenging, ambivalent vision of the future in Hellas (1822). What emerges is a poet who, despite having moved beyond a vision of utopia that is trapped by its own finished perfection, struggles to imagine a future that is uncorrupted by the failures of the past. Although Shelley’s visions of the future have often been described as ‘utopias’, there has been little investigation into the complexities of his utopian drought, or his place within a broader utopian tradition. While M. H. Scrivener’s Radical Shelley: The Philosophical Anarchism and Utopian Thought of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1982) treats Shelley’s utopianism as one aspect of his political radicalism, this thesis offers a rigorous exploration of Shelley’s multifaceted engagement with the concept of utopia, and what it means to take him seriously as a utopian thinker. The opening chapter investigates the utopian impulse in three eighteenth-century texts— Pope’s Essay on Man (1733-4), Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-88), and Godwin’s Political Justice (1793)—which inform Shelley’s exploration of the relationship between the past, present, and future. The subsequent three chapters analyse the utopian aspects of Shelley’s poetry, focussing on their anticipatory qualities, the notion of a ‘utopian crisis’, the nature of resistance, and how he conceives the relationship between poetry and utopian thinking. I conclude by calling for a reassessment of Shelley’s place within a nineteenth-century utopian tradition.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available