Shelley’s Poetics of Reticence : Shelley’s Shame book cover
1st Edition

Shelley’s Poetics of Reticence
Shelley’s Shame

ISBN 9780367256432
Published May 18, 2020 by Routledge
250 Pages

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USD $160.00

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Book Description

Exploring the rhetorical and phenomenological links between shame and reticence, this book examines the psychology of Shelley’s anguished poet-Subject. Shelley’s struggles with the fragility of the ‘self’ have largely been seen as the result of thinking which connects emotional hyperstimulation to moral and political undermining of the individual ‘will’. This work takes a different approach, suggesting that Shelley’s insecurities stemmed from anxieties about the nature of aesthetic self-representation. Shame is an appropriate affective marker of such anxiety because it occurs at the cusp between internal and external self-evaluation. Shelley’s reticent poetics transfers an affective sense of shame to the reader and provokes interpretive responsibility. Paying attention to the affective contours of texts, this book presents new readings of Shelley’s major works. These interpretations show that awakening the reader’s ethical discretion creates a constructive dynamic which challenges influential deconstructive readings of the unfinished nature of Shelley’s work and thought.

Table of Contents


i Shelley’s Shames

ii Shame Theories

iii Reticence

iv Affect and Romanticism

v Texts

Chapter One: Reticent Impersonations: Shelley’s Unhappy Consciousness

i The Empty Subject

ii Bad Faith

iii Shame and Ideology

iv Historicism

v The Problems of Materialism

Chapter Two: Alastor’s Mute Poets

i Shelley and Wordsworth

ii Rejecting ‘natural piety’

iii The veilèd maid and the disgrace of the alternative

iv The narrator as victim of his own constructions

Chapter Three: Shame, Silence and Historicism in The Cenci

i Beatrice’s Casuistry

ii Shame and De-humanisation

iii Shame as Self-construction

Chapter Four: Julian and Maddalo: What the ‘cold world shall not know’

i The Reticence of ‘the cold world’ and Shelley’s Critique of Symbols

ii The Maniac’s Resistance and Byron’s ‘Prometheus’

iii The Maniac’s Performance of Shame

iv Julian’s Reserve

Chapter Five: Metaphysical Sympathies

i Sympathetic Poetics in A Defence of Poetry

ii Transcending the Ego in Ode to the West Wind, Mont Blanc, Ode to Intellectual Beauty and Adonais

Chapter Six: The Jane Poems: Love, Lyric and Life

i Eroticism and the hollowness of the "Lyric I"

ii Sensory Bad faith

iii Beyond Denial

Chapter Seven: The Triumph of Life: Pleasure versus process and the shame of self-knowledge

i The Failure of Allegory

ii Rousseau as the Subject-in-Shame

iii Countering the ‘cold glare’


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Merrilees Roberts is a teaching associate at Queen Mary, University of London, where she teaches mainly literary theory. She also completed her doctoral work on Percy Shelley at Queen Mary, examining reticence in Percy Shelley’s poetry and philosophy.