Percy Bysshe Shelley and the Gothic
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My dissertation participates in a developing body of Romantic criticism that seeks to trace the crucial, yet uncertain, relationship between Romanticism and the Gothic. Recent studies argue persuasively for the influence of gothic aesthetics on the major poets of the Romantic era, yet surprisingly little attention has been given to Percy Bysshe Shelley, for whom, more than any other Romantic, the gothic sensibility arguably provided the most powerful and lasting influence during the course of his career. Shelley's earliest publications, including his two gothic novels--Zastrozzi, a Romance and St. Irvyne; or, The Rosicrucian--have received scant critical attention and demand an analysis that approaches these early works with the same theoretical rigor that his mature poetry receives. I employ the insights of Lacanian psychoanalytic theory to interrogate my distinction between the Shelleyan subject of Romanticism and the Shelleyesque subject of Gothicism. Where the Shelleyan gaze finds synthesis, desire, pleasure, sublimity, benevolence, and being; the Shelleyesque gaze finds antagonism, drive, jouissance, monstrosity, perversion, and lack. Rather than an undisciplined juvenile phase of Shelley's development, the Shelleyesque continues to operate throughout his mature poetry in unsettling and provocative ways, particularly in works such as Prometheus Unbound--generally considered to be Shelley's most idealistic attempt to transcend the political, sexual, and psychological antagonisms associated with the gothic tradition--further complicating the uncanny relationship between Romanticism and the Gothic.