The Senselessness of an Ending in Wordsworth, P. B. Shelley, and Keats Open Access

Donahue, Luke (2013)

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This dissertation investigates a particular form of destruction or erasure that repeats throughout romantic poetry and prose--namely, destruction that destroys ahead as it were, that destroys the possibility of being read in the future. I argue that this form of future-oriented erasure does not only put pressure on what we mean by terms like ‘erasure', ‘remainder', and ‘trace', but also upon how we have conceived of Romanticism in the past thirty to forty years. Rather than understanding Romanticism as a discourse of survival--as a discourse that learns how to survive as its own fragmentation and disarticulation--I think of Romanticism as a discourse obsessed with the threats to that very survival. Wordsworth's Prelude, Shelley's Defence of Poetry and "Ode to the West Wind," and Keats's "Ode to Psyche," I argue, consistently figure that which is already only living as a ruin of itself as facing an even more devastating destruction, such that it cannot even survive as a ruin or ghost. Throughout my readings of Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats, I pay particular attention not only to the destruction of texts, ideas, people, or things, but also and especially to the destruction of differences--differences, moreover, that seem to be indestructible and ineluctable in our past and future history. The romantics show us that dichotomies such as innocence/fallenness, mind/body, and imagination/science are unstable; but they also show us that these dichotomies might disappear even in and as their instability. What the mere possibility of this mode of devastation implies for futurity, survival, deconstruction, historicism, and Romanticism is the question that this dissertation begins to ask.

Table of Contents

Prelude: The Death of a Ghost 2

Introduction: Romanticism Not Surviving (A Review of Scholarship) 18

1 Time and History in The Prelude (Book Five) 49

2 One Image in The Prelude (Book Seven) 85

3 Shelley's Defence After Poetry 130

4 Annihilating Allusions in Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind" 162

5 Keats's Material Psyche and the End of Love 198

Notes 231

Work Cited 264

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