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Shelley Inc.: The Romantic-Victorian Making of Shelley’s Corpus

Eric Tyler Powell

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Published Date:

January 2024


Percy Bysshe Shelley, Romantic-Victorians, Associationism, Lyricisation, Emotion, Body


This essay reconsiders the standard account of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s reception in the nineteenth century by returning to the early critical writing on Shelley’s corpus—both his textual and physical bodies—in the Romantic-Victorian period from 1824 to 1840. Rather than a disembodying and etherealising of Shelley, as the standard account has it, what the early critical debate over Shelley’s corpus reveals is the construction and diagnosis of a very unique body, which I call hypersomatic—a body at the mercy of the senses and emotions. The debate was rooted in associationist psychology, the most advanced mind science of the period, and part of a paradigm shift that occurred in the early nineteenth century. The effect of this critical construction of Shelley’s physical body on his textual body was to sever his lyrics from his main corpus: in effect, a depoliticisation of his oeuvre.

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39 - 59

Date of Publication:

January 2024

About the author

Eric Tyler Powell

Eric Tyler Powell is Visiting Researcher at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Ljubljana. His work has been published or is forthcoming in English Literary History, Textual Practice, Thinking Verse, Socialist Forum, Chicago Review, and Notre Dame Review. He was editor of Chicago Review from 2017–2020.

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