"In the midst of Life, we are in Death:" Melancholia and Ecology in British Romantic Poetry translation missing: zh.hyrax.visibility.files_restricted.text

Bishop, Elizabeth Briande (2014)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/6969z121g?locale=zh
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Abstract

This dissertation explores subjectivity at the intersection of ecology and melancholia in British Romantic poetry. I argue that a discernible ethics arises when melancholia is understood through the lens of ecology. I examine the emergence of ethics in poems by John Clare, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats. In their work, the speaker's exploration of nature troubles conceptions of subjectivity in ways that are at times disturbing and transformative. Drawing on the work of Timothy Morton, Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno I contend that through an attention to ecology the subject learns how to approach nature but also the alterity inherent to him/herself. Chapter 1 elaborates the theoretical stakes of the dissertation through Morton's theory of dark ecology. He proposes a reconceptualization of nature which rejects subject-immersion in nature for the recognition of distance between the subject and nature. I extend this to read a burgeoning psychosis in Clare's apocalyptic lyrics. Chapter 2 presents a revisionist reading of Shelley's Adonais which positions the elegy in terms of suicidal ideation. I demonstrate how influential scholarship obscures the text's suicidal elements and explore work which positions the suicidal gesture as central to the speaker's embrace of eternity. Chapter 3 charts Keats's turn away from aesthetic ideology while forging a new poetic mission based on an embrace of melancholia as a productive literary force through "On Seeing the Elgin Marbles," "Epistle to Hamilton" and "Ode on a Grecian Urn." Chapter 4 elaborates Keats' new poetics of transience and potentiality through two models of ecological insight. "Ode to a Nightingale" recognizes the fundamental importance of the subject's distance from alterity through an exercise in failure. The second, in "Isabella; or The Pot of Basil" and "Ode on Melancholy," presents an effacement of subjectivity, through reading the body as a vessel for organic vitality which influences other vegetal forms, even past death. The juxtaposition with "Isabella" enables a re-reading of "Melancholy" in which the poet-speaker embraces the outcome of his finite existence. By locating melancholia at the center of subjectivity, I present readings of British romantic poems which produce an ethics to guide interactions with ecology.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction: "In the midst of life we are in death"......... 1

Chapter One: "From Her(e) to Eternity:"

Tracing Alterity through the Poetry of John Clare............23

Chapter Two: "Love is the Plan, The Plan is Death:"

Suicidal Ideation in Shelley's Adonais..................................60

Chapter Three: "Dark Secrets Look for Light,"

or Fragments Making Knowledge in the Poetry of Keats..........88

Chapter Four: "All fires have to burn alive to live,"

or Keats' Melancholy Science.........................................119

Works Cited................................................................153

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