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‘Arising from the state of intellectual sickliness and lethargy’: A Re-evaluation of Percy Shelley’s Gothic Fiction

Watson, Molly (2021) ‘Arising from the state of intellectual sickliness and lethargy’: A Re-evaluation of Percy Shelley’s Gothic Fiction. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.

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Abstract

This dissertation seeks to realign and re-evaluate Shelley’s sense of authorship and how this has largely been uncritically absorbed in literary criticism. By locating Shelley’s Gothic fiction in the contexts of its production and literary influences, I aim to demonstrate that Shelley’s poetic personhood has always been fragmentary and illusory. The Gothic is a perfect analogy for Shelley’s literary identity: fragmented, stitched together, and influenced by science and philosophy, both the Gothic genre and Shelley’s authorial voice are incoherent. This pragmatic approach to the generic content of Shelley’s early fiction rehabilitates texts that have formerly been considered ridiculous, substandard, and second-rate.

I argue that Zastrozzi and St. Irvyne are melodramatically excessive yet complex works. I contend that the novellas demonstrate Shelley’s experimentation with language, form, and genre, his interest in science and philosophy, and the fragmentation of his literary identity. I locate Zastrozzi and St. Irvyne—and indeed Shelley’s other Gothic works—in the context of their intellectual production and literary environment. I therefore aim to restate the significance of Shelley’s Gothic fiction. Although the Shelley canon is undergoing an expansion, a critical rehabilitation of his neglected works is still necessary. Indeed, Shelley the man is an enigma: at once radical and conservative, atheistic, and agnostic, sole literary genius, and collaborative author, identifying and recognising the enigma of Shelley as a man and as a writer can help enlighten us as to why he was so intrigued by the Gothic while he simultaneously dismissed it as a form of ‘intellectual sickliness’.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Schools: School of Music, Humanities and Media
Depositing User: Annabel Danson-Darbyshire
Date Deposited: 16 Dec 2021 12:27
Last Modified: 16 Dec 2021 12:27
URI: https://eprints.hud.ac.uk/id/eprint/35633

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