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"Beauty is Goodness, Goodness Beauty": Shelley's "Awful Shadow" and "Ethical Sublime"

By Chung-Hsuan Tung


Truth, Beauty, and Goodness are three great human ideals belonging to epistemological, aesthetic, and ethical categories, respectively. But they are often not easily differentiated. For Plato Goodness is the supreme Form or Idea governing all other Forms or Ideas including Truth and Beauty. For Keats Beauty and Truth are identical. For Shelley "Beauty is Goodness, Goodness Beauty." Rather than an aesthete, Shelley is primarily a moralist preoccupied with Goodness: his works are often directly linkable to his social, political, and religious status quo and his poetic theory tends towards the pragmatism of doing good. What Shelley calls "intellectual beauty" is but "inner beauty" or "virtuous goodness" that finds its embodiment in an ideal maid or a revolutionary soul mate, who represents Shelleyan virtues. Shelley uses the word "shadow" very often: it can be "awful" in the sense of "very bad" or "awe-inspiring." Shelley's "awful shadow" is often no other than "intellectual beauty," an ideal form originated from the Supreme Goodness. It is connected with the 18th-century idea of "the sublime." Shelley exploits "the sublime" ethically: seeing an invisible, beneficent, supreme power hidden in nature but directing the world in its revolutionary course of change. In the final analysis, Shelley's "ethical sublime" expresses clearly his Platonism or idealism, explaining meanwhile his radicalism, atheism, pragmatic theory of poetry and defects in writing poetry

Topics: truth, beauty, goodness, intellectual beauty, the awful shadow, the sublime and the beautiful, the ethical sublime, Platonism, idealism, radicalism, atheism
Publisher: 臺中市:國立中興大學外國語文學系
Year: 2014
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