The Contingent Limits of Romantic Myth-Making

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In the previous chapter, I claimed that by the time of the “Triumph of Life” Shelley had come to a post-romantic recognition that there is no position of pure aesthetic autonomy and of world-transcendence, acquiescing to the historicity and contingency of human experience. Following Shelley’s logic, I sought to describe this new position in terms of the knowledge of non-knowing. In this chapter I gather together the different strands of discussion and conclude with a two-part argument about English romantic discourse. In the first two sections, I argue that Wordsworth and Coleridge set up a distinct romantic discourse that we can read in retrospect as illuminating some of the inherent tensions in romantic metaphysics. This particular discourse, as I have argued throughout, is inherent in the struggle towards an aesthetic recognition as understood as part of the personal and critical conversation between Wordsworth and Coleridge. I also use a phenomenological perspective to postulate that the work of both poets is based upon their relative sense of embodiment. In the third section, I argue that the literalisation of this discourse — a process in part due to its gaining common acceptance and currency as a recognisable romantic discourse — enables Shelley to produce a second-order discourse that affirms non-knowing. Shelley is able to usher in a new shape of romantic experience that acknowledges the ironic, embodied, historicist, perspectival and contingent nature of experience.

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As the daughter of two notorious Romantic rebels and as the wife of a third, Mary Shelley was encouraged from her youth to "enrol [herself] on the page of fame," to prove herself by her pen and her imagination. But since Shelley also wanted to conform to the more conventional feminine model-to be modest, self-effacing, and devoted to a family rather than to a career-she developed a prevalent ambivalence toward self-assertion. In the 1818 edition of Frankenstein, this ambivalence surfaces in her criticism of the egotistic imagination and in the grotesque but sympathetic monster that symbolizes its essence; the 1831 revision applies this judgment more forcefully to her own youthful "transgression." Nevertheless, by characterizing the artist as the victim of an uncontrollable destiny, Shelley also sanctions the very self-expression she professes to regret and elevates the dilemma of the female artist to the status of myth.
This essay seeks to provide meaning and a context for interpretation of the Romantic "Lucy" poems by William Wordsworth. Hall argues against two critics' opposing interpretations by suggesting the meaning is humanistic which provides somewhat of a clarity into Wordsworth's poetic development. Hall suggests that his proposed context into these poems isn't merely one dimensional, but multi-faceted and draws upon other critics.
Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus / Mary Shelley. Note: The University of Adelaide Library eBooks @ Adelaide.
After Theory (London: Penguin
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