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Title: "Poetry (...) concealed by (...) facts and calculating processes" : political economy in the prose of Percy Bysshe Shelley
Authors: Stokoe, Leanne
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This thesis focuses exclusively on Shelley’s prose works. Firstly, it asks why few of those critics who admire Shelley’s poetry have analysed his prose in detail. Secondly, it explores Shelley’s engagement with political economy, with a view to questioning assumptions that he was hostile towards this discipline. Such a reading is indebted to the work of Connell (2001) and Bronk (2009), who argued that Malthusian and Benthamite doctrines may be aligned with literary concerns. However, my thesis extends these arguments by suggesting that Shelley refused to separate economic and aesthetic categories. Chapter One focuses upon Shelley’s early economic interests, culminating in a reading of his Notes to Queen Mab. These include Smith’s moral philosophy and Spence’s use of poetry to promote agrarian ideas. Such influences inspired Shelley to explore not only contemporary economic theories, but also the way that these were expressed. Chapter Two, which addresses Shelley’s essays on vegetarianism and political reform, discusses his interest in the ways in which metropolitan reformers like Hunt addressed economic issues in aesthetic language, whilst provincial writers like Cobbett incorporated poetry into their criticism of contemporary hardship. This affinity between political economy and literature can be seen as influencing a term that Shelley introduces in his major essays: – ‘Poetry’. Chapter Three, on A Philosophical View of Reform, explores how Shelley defines this capitalised word as encompassing all enlightening disciplines, not simply a literary genre. Chapter Four culminates in an analysis of Shelley’s treatment of utilitarianism in A Defence of Poetry. By engaging with the theories of Mill and Ricardo, it shows that Shelley saw political economy as containing qualities that were ‘concealed’, yet could be revealed within its ‘calculating processes’. Through exploring the way that political economy thus shaped, and was shaped by, his definition of ‘Poetry’, I present Shelley as a distinctive contributor to nineteenth-century economic thought.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics

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