Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Sweet degradation - the persistence of the Gothic in Shelley's representations of love

By Eleanor Burns

Abstract

This thesis examines the persistent influence of Gothic fiction upon the works of Percy Bysshe Shelley throughout his career, beginning with its obvious manifestations in his\ud early novels and the Victor and Cazire poems, and proceeding to trace its continued presence throughout the major works. Particular emphasis is placed on the use of this trope within depictions of love and sexuality -a conjunction which may be traced from the juvenile period to `The Triumph of Life' - and it is argued that in spite of repeated attempts to devise a redemptive system of sexual ethics (most comprehensively attempted in the Platonic commentary `A Discourse On the Manners of the Antient Greeks Relative to the Subject of Love'), Shelley is unable to reject his psychological scepticism which the Gothic - with its depictions of morbid and sadistic sexuality - embodies.\ud \ud \ud Chapter one focuses upon the early works - especially Zastrozzi - with particular comparison to the powerful influence of The Monk and Zofloya upon Shelley at this\ud period. The possible early influence of Plato - especially the Phaedo - is also considered, as well as the gothic cadences of Plato's own work.\ud \ud Chapter two deals with The Cenci, considering it as the most obviously gothic work of Shelley's mature career. His use of the genre is explored in psychoanalytic and\ud socio-political terms, and compared to Freud's Civilisation and its Discontents as a dramatic study in dysfunctional social institutions.\ud \ud Chapter three considers the figure of the vampire and other parasitic lovers of Romantic fiction, concluding with the veiled apparition of `Alastor'. Dante's dream of the siren in the Purgatorio is presented as a possible prototype with this manifestation of a self-consuming, antisocial existence. Conversely, however, society itself is presented in none too attractive or redeeming a light.\ud \ud This dilemma leads into Chapter four, where the reform of society by the exposure and abolition of `crimes of convention' (in Shelley's terms) is the central issue.\ud Incest is considered both as an example of a pointless and unethical social code (as depicted by Shelley), and as a possible expedient for promoting Platonic relations within\ud a fully-sexual partnership.\ud \ud Chapter five deals with `The Triumph of Life', in which gothic horror comes to the fore along with new heights of pessimism regarding worldly sexuality. The legacy of\ud Rousseau, and his profound influence on Shelley, is intertwined with this, and the poem appears to be reaching away from the sensuality of the disgraced philosopher towards a more rarefied, Dantean concept of love, when it breaks off.\ud \ud Chapter six pursues the Dantean theme through Epipsychidion and Adonais, paying particular note to the claiming of the deceased Keats as a more appropriate spiritual guide than Emilia Viviani. It considers whether this constitutes an affirmation of transcendent Platonic love, or an outright rejection of sexuality as `sweet degradation', chaining humanity to the apparent and imperfect

Publisher: School of English (Leeds)
Year: 2004
OAI identifier: oai:etheses.whiterose.ac.uk:619

Suggested articles

Citations

  1. (1974). 15th Edition.
  2. (1949). 248 ------------- The Divine Comedy II:
  3. (1971). A Critical Reading. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins
  4. (1985). A Preface to Shelley. London and
  5. (1992). A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792). Harmondsworth: doi
  6. (1988). Alastor: The Poet and the Narrator Reconsidered'.
  7. (1992). An Anatomy of Solitude: Shelley's Response to Radical Skepticism in Alastor'. doi
  8. (1978). Cenci as Corrupt Dramatic Poet'.
  9. (1930). Civilization and its Discontents doi
  10. (1989). Embodying Revolution: The Figure of the Poet in Shelley. doi
  11. (1966). Fashionable Contrasts - Caricatures by James Gillray. Introduced and annotated by Draper Hill.
  12. Faust I (1808). Translated by doi
  13. (2000). Five Romantic Plays.
  14. (1969). Frankenstein (1818). Oxford: doi
  15. (1983). Guthke, Karl S. The Gender of Death: A Cultural History in Art and Literature.
  16. (1962). Harriet Shelley: Five Long Years.
  17. (1999). Johann Wolfgang von Göethe: Selected Poems. doi
  18. (1969). La Vita Nuova (1292-94). Trans. Barbara Reynolds.
  19. (1994). Like the Sound of His Own Voice": Gender, Audition, and Echo in Alastor'
  20. (1993). Longman Critical Readers. London & doi
  21. (1989). Melmoth the Wanderer (1820). doi
  22. (1997). Monk" Lewis as Literary Lion'. doi
  23. (1993). New Casebooks: Wuthering Heights.
  24. (1949). Nineteen Eighty-Four doi
  25. (1968). Nouvelle Heloäse - Julie, or the New Eloise (1761). Translated and Abridged
  26. (1667). Paradise Lost doi
  27. (1981). Phantastes (1858). Grand Rapids,
  28. (2004). Poetical Works. 5 vols. doi
  29. (1994). Poetry. Oxford: doi
  30. (1979). Reveries of the Solitary Walker (1778). Trans. Peter France. doi
  31. (1994). Romantic Ideology Unmasked: The Mentally Constructed Tyrannies in Dramas of William Wordsworth, doi
  32. (2000). Romanticism and the Gothic. doi
  33. (1971). Rousseau and Romanticism.
  34. (1979). Rousseau in England: The Context for Shelley's Critique of the Enlightenment. doi
  35. (1970). Shelley's Cenci: Scorpions Ringed with Fire.
  36. (1981). Shelley's Fiction: The "Stream of Fate"'.
  37. (1957). Shelley's Later Poetry. New York: doi
  38. (1948). Shelley's Major Poetry. doi
  39. (1999). Shelley's Mirrors of Love - Narcissism, Sacrifice and Sorority. doi
  40. (1978). Shelley's Wandering Jew: Some Borrowings from Lewis and Radcliffe'.
  41. (1990). Shelleyan Eros: The Rhetoric of Romantic Love. doi
  42. (1996). Shelleyan Incest and the Romantic Legacy'.
  43. (1977). Tales of Mystery and Imagination. doi
  44. (1964). Texts: The Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley. doi
  45. (1984). The "Double Soul": Virginia Woolf, Shelley, and Androgyny'.
  46. (1994). The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table. London and Glasgow: Blackie and Son Ltd,
  47. (1996). The Castle of Otranto (1764). doi
  48. (1993). The Complete Plays, Poems, Novels and Stories of Oscar Wilde.
  49. (2000). The Confessions (1781). Trans. Angela Scholar.
  50. (1975). The Critical Heritage. London and Boston: Routledge
  51. (1982). The Decameron. Trans. Richard Aldington.
  52. (1307). The Divine Comedy I: Hell doi
  53. (1986). The English Satirical Print 1600-1832: The Common People and Politics 1750-1790s. Cambridge: Chadwyck-Healey Ltd, doi
  54. (2000). The Eucharist of Hell", or, Eating People is Right: Romantic Representations of Cannibalism'. doi
  55. (1998). The Exorcist & Legion. doi
  56. (1979). The Gothic Tradition in Fiction. doi
  57. (1998). The Italian (1897). Oxford and New York:
  58. (1976). The Johns Hopkins doi
  59. (1954). The Last Days of Socrates. Translated with an introduction by Hugh Tredennick. doi
  60. (1906). The Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1858).
  61. (1996). The Literature of Terror. doi
  62. (1998). The Monk (1796). Edited with an introduction and notes by Christopher Maclachlan.
  63. (1975). The Moral Vision of Jacobean Tragedy. doi
  64. (1975). The Mystery of Eros: Sexual Initiation in Coleridge's "Christabel "' doi
  65. (1992). The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. Fourth Edition. Ed. Angela Partington.
  66. (1969). The Platonism of Shelley: A Study of Platonism and the Poetic Mind. doi
  67. (2000). The Poems of Shelley. doi
  68. (1993). The Prose Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley. doi
  69. (1933). The Pursuit of Death: A Study of Shelley 's Poetry. doi
  70. (1995). The Rise of Supernatural Fiction, 1762-1800. Cambridge: doi
  71. (1995). The Rise of the Gothic Novel. doi
  72. (1951). The Symposium. Translated by W.
  73. (1963). The Tale of Terror. A Study of the Gothic Romance.
  74. (1819). The Vampyre: a Tale.
  75. (1904). Thomas Hutchinson.
  76. (1996). Time's Tale: The Temporal Poetics of Shelley's Alastor'.
  77. (1997). Tis Pity She's a Whore (1633). Ed. Derek Roper. doi
  78. (1987). Translated by Desmond Lee.
  79. (1888). Triumphs, and other Poems of Petrarch. doi
  80. (1994). Vampires: The World of the Undead. Trans. Lory Frankel. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd.,
  81. (1989). Vampirism and Plagiarism: Byron's Influence and Polidori's Practice'. doi
  82. (2001). Vita Nuova (1292-94). Trans. Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
  83. (1847). Wuthering Heights doi
  84. (1989). Wuthering Heights: A Study. doi
  85. (1986). Zastrozzi and St Irvyne (1810,1811). Edited with an introduction by
  86. (1997). Zofloya or The Moor (1806). Edited with an introduction and notes by Kim Ian Michasiw.

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.