University of Tasmania
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An appraisal of the contemporary view of Shelley's poetry

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posted on 2023-05-26, 22:05 authored by Kruse, A
The contemporary attitude to Shelley may be considered as a combination of two sharply opposed points of view: a tradition of disapproval and a tradition of extravagant admiration. Disapproval of Shelley has been greatly influenced by the early criticism of T.S. Eliot, The claim is that Shelley is a heretic whose work suffers from emotionalism and incoherence. F.R.Leavis adds to this tradition the argument that faults in Shelley's style reflect faults in character and morality. He argues that Shelley is an unimportant Romantic poet. Shelley is intensely emotional, his theories are not profound, and his style suffers from obscurity and unstable rhetorical devices. However, in the early poems, despite his immaturity, he experiments with radical versions of Romantic forms, Alastor is an attempt to, create elaborate allegorical ambiguity. Mont Blanc is a radical version of the Romantic nature poem. In particular, Shelley is concerned with Mimesis, even mimetic obscurity. Those variations upon traditional methods are linked with elaborate, if inconclusive, philosophising about mysticism, magic, moniam and scepticism. His attitude to visionary inspiration is often governed by a dilemma, conflicting ideas about idealism and illusion. F.R.Leavis, William Empson, and even Yvor Winters, tend to be. influenced by the mimetic fallacy in their attitude to Shelley, Shelley was confused about the nature of poetry. But the demand for precision in poetry should not obscure his perverse complexity and the brilliance of his immaturity. The tradition of admiration may be referred to Yeats: the tendency is to praise Shelley as a Platonist (or magician, or apocalyptic visionary). The second tradition offers a more obvious and extreme version of the mimetic fallacy. It misunderstands Shelley's complex attitude to inspiration and' obscures the qualifications he. adds to his celebration of ecstacy. Both Platonism and myth are important in the poems. However, Shelley's sense of dilemma is greater in Prometheus unbound, although his tentative and intense religious idealism is also more clear. His symbolism is neither primitive nor concerned merely with visionary apocalypse. The Freudian and Jungian criticism of the 1930's finds apocalypse (or apocalyptic Platonism) and myth. Herbert Read claims that homosexuality' is the main meaning of the poems; in contrast, on the whole, the subject is linked with contrived implications about monism and Love. The other critics confuse Shelley's tentative speculations and their own extravagant theories. Two American critics of'the 1930's, Carl Grabo and Benjamin Kurtz, show clearer understanding of Shelley's equivocal attitude to reform and Platonism. However, they obscure his uncertainty about inspiration. Prometheus unbound combines propaganda about Romantic idealism, analysis of despair, and a Dionysian version of a tragic dilemma. Contemporary American criticism contains profound interpretation of one level of Shelley's attitude to vision. But it tends to continue the claim that Shelley was an inspired prophet, The result is confusion about the methods and content of Prometheus unbound and false praise.


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Copyright 1964 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Thesis (M.A.) - University of Tasmania, 1965. Includes bibliography

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