1st Edition

Shelley’s Poetics of Reticence Shelley’s Shame

By Merrilees Roberts Copyright 2020
    250 Pages
    by Routledge

    250 Pages
    by Routledge

    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.


    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’



    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.