Shelley's Eye: Travel Writing and Aesthetic Vision, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Shelley's Eye

Travel Writing and Aesthetic Vision, 1st Edition

By Benjamin Colbert


272 pages

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Percy Bysshe Shelley joined the deluge of sightseers that poured onto the Continent after Napoleon's defeat in 1814, and over the next eight years Shelley followed major travelling trends, visiting Switzerland in 1816 and Italy from 1818. Shelley's Eye is the first study to address Shelley's participation in the travel culture of Post-Napoleonic Europe, and the first to consider Shelley as an important travel writer in his own right. This book is informed by original research on a wide range of period travel writings, including Mary Shelley and Shelley's neglected collaboration, History of a Six Weeks' Tour (1817), in which 'Mont Blanc' first appeared. Fully responsive to the culture of travel, Shelley's travel prose and poetry form fascinating conversations with major Romantic travellers like Byron, Wollstonecraft, and Wordsworth, as well as lesser-known but widely read travel writers of the day, including Morris Birkbeck, Charlotte Eaton, and John Chetwode Eustace. In this provocative study, Benjamin Colbert demonstrates how the Grand Tour remains a vital cultural metaphor for Shelley and his contemporaries, under pressure from mass travel and popular culture. Shelley's travel prose and 'visionary' poetry explore motives of perception underlying travel discourse and posit an authentic 'aesthetic vision' that reconfigures social, historical, and political meanings of 'sights' from the perspective of an ideal tourist-observer. Shelley's Eye offers a new perspective on Shelley's intellectual history. It is also a timely and important contribution to recent interdisciplinary scholarship that aims to re-evaluate Romantic idealism in the context of physical, experiential, or material cultural practices.


'Shelley's Eye is a responsible, informative analysis of the milieu that generated some of Shelley's most powerful poetry. It also immerses a reader in a world of books, places, and personalities that, after Colbert's astute analysis of them, will never, to adapt the final line of Alastor, be as they were.' Studies in Romanticism ’Colbert's command of his source material […] is impressive… Shelley's Eye is a work of admirable breadth and contains much of interest… Colbert has unquestionably made a rewarding contribution to Shelley studies, further illuminating, in a confident and attractive prose, the extraordinary complexity of shelley's work.’ Romanticism ’Colbert's Shelley's Eye is a formidable though compact text. Meticulously documented, exhaustively researched, and thought-provoking, it is one of the first authoritative studies to address Shelley's travel writings in their own right, and with it Colbert makes an important and long-overdue contribution to Shelley studies.’ Keats-Shelley Journal

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; 'The sun rises over France': post-Napoleonic travellers' Europe; 'Citizens of the world': dislocated vision in Alastor; 'The raptures of travellers': writing Mont Blanc; 'Relics of antiquity': Shelley's classical tour through Italy; 'The emblem of Italy': two-fold vision in Prometheus Unbound; 'Empire o'er the unborn world': Shelley's Hellas; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Benjamin Colbert is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Wolverhampton, UK.

About the Series

The Nineteenth Century Series

The Nineteenth Century Series

The Nineteenth Century Series aims to develop and promote new approaches and fresh directions in scholarship and criticism on nineteenth-century literature and culture. The series encourages work which erodes the traditional boundary between Romantic and Victorian studies and welcomes interdisciplinary approaches to the literary, religious, scientific and visual cultures of the period. While British literature and culture are the core subject matter of monographs and collections in the series,  the editors encourage proposals which explore the wider, international contexts of nineteenth-century literature – transatlantic, European and global.  Print culture, including studies in the newspaper and periodical press, book history, life writing and gender studies are particular strengths of this established series as are high quality single author studies.  The series also embraces research in the field of digital humanities. The editors invite proposals from both younger and established scholars in all areas of nineteenth-century literary studies. 

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / Comparative Literature