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Romantic Symbolic Poem: Coleridge, Shelley, Keats - part II: Shelley

Class at Faculty of Arts |



The course will focus on close reading of selected major poems by the above poets in the context of recent critical theory. It is divided into three semester-long sections dedicated to the work of individual romantic poets: Coleridge,Shelley and Keats.

The opening part of the Shelley seminar traces the transformation of the philosophical allegory in his poetry ("Queen Mab", 1812-13) into the Romantic symbolism of nature (“Ode to the West Wind”, 1819). The next section explores allegory and symbolism in Shelley’s early and mature political verse (e.g., “The Devil’s Walk”, 1812, The Mask of Anarchy, 1819) in relation to his reflections of the power of poetry (A Defence of Poetry, 1821) and the demise of autocratic power (“Ozymandias”, 1818). The main part focuses on Shelley’s masterpiece, the dramatic poem Prometheus Unbound (1820) as an act of transcendence of the patterns of Greek and Christian mythology and an imaginative projection of a new universal order. The seminar is concluded by the discussion of Shelley’s last poem, “The Triumph of Life” (1822) and a discussion of several theoretical texts on metaphor (Jacques Derrida), allegory and Romantic symbolism (Paul de Man).


Sessions will be opened by short talks (5 minutes) given by all students on the texts assigned in the week-by-week schedule (see via the Moodle link above). Discussion will follow, concluded by the instructors' comments.


John Archer, “Authority in Shelley”, Studies in Romanticism, 26.2 (Summer 1987): 259-74.

Paul de Man, Allegories of Reading (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1979) (“Semiology and


Paul de Man, The Rhetoric of Romanticism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984)(“Intentional Structure of the Romantic Image”, “Shelley Disfigured”)

Jacques Derrida, “White Mythology,” in Margins of Philosophy, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985) 207-72.

David Duff, Romanticism and the Uses of Genre (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) (selection)

William Freedman, “Postponement and Perspectives in Shelley’s ‘Ozymandias’”, Studies in Romanticism, 25.1 (Spring 1986): 63-74.

Donald H. Reiman and Neil Fraistat (eds.), The Complete Poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley, vol. 1 and 2 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000 and 2004).

Lawrence John Zillman (ed.), Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound. The Text and the Drafts (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1968).

For Czech students:

Martin Procházka, Romantismus a osobnost (Praha: Kruh moderních filologů, 1996), kapitola 1 (Subjektivita v romantické poezii a estetice)

Zdeněk Hrbata a Martin Procházka, Romantismus a romantismy (Praha: Karolinum, 2005), kapitola 4 (Imaginace a poezie)

Some primary texts and most secondary texts are available on Moodle.


Credits will be given on the basis of students’ short talks, their participation in discussion and a final essay (3000 words) whose topic has to be discussed with the instructors.

Course Schedule 1.Introductory 2. From Philosophical Allegory to the Symbolism of Nature (3 sessions)

(a) Queen Mab (1812-13), Canto I and Canto II (lines 1-125)

(b) shorter reflexive poems: “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty”, “Mont Blanc” (1816), “The Cloud” (1820), “Ode to the West Wind” (1819).

(c) Essays: “On Love”, “On Life” (1815); Mary Shelley’s notes on Queen Mab (1839, 1840) 3. Politics, Power, Poetry (2 sessions)

(a) “The Devil’s Walk: A Ballad” (1812), “The Mask of Anarchy”, “Song: To the Men of England”, “England in 1819”

(all 1819)

(b) “Ozymandias” (1817), A Defence of Poetry (1821) 4. A Project of a New Order? Prometheus Unbound (1820), Myth and Universal Imagination (3 sessions)

(a) Hellenic and Christian: Preface, Acts I and II

(b) “Some unimagined change”: Act III and the Symbol of Demogorgon

(c) “A universal sound like words”: Act IV 5. A Testament? “The Triumph of Life” (1822)

Paul de Man “Shelley Disfigured” (1984) 6. Concluding Discussion: Beyond Romantic Notions of Allegory and Symbol

Paul de Man, “Intentional Structure of Romantic Image”, “Anthropomorphism and Trope in Lyric” (1984). Jacques Derrida, “White Mythology” (1985)

Study programmes