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Shelley's Living Artistry: Letters, Poems, Plays
Liverpool English Texts and Studies 69
This study of the poetry and drama of Percy Bysshe Shelley reads the letters and their biographical contexts to shed light on the poetry, tracing the ambiguous and shifting relationship between the poet's art and life. For Shelley, both life and art are transfigured by their relationship with one another where the `poet participates in the eternal, the infinite, and the one' but is equally bound up with and formed by the society in which he lives and the past that he inherits. Callaghan shows that the distinctiveness of Shelley's work comes to rest on its wrong-footing of any neat division of life and art. The dazzling intensity of Shelley's poetry and drama lies in its refusal to separate the twain as Shelley explores and finally explodes the boundaries between what is personal and what is poetic. Arguing that the critic, like the artist, cannot ignore the conditions of the poet's life, Callaghan reveals how Shelley's artistry reconfigures and redraws the actual in his poetry. The book shows how Shelley's poetic daring lies in troubling the distinction between poetry as aesthetic work hermetically sealed against life, and poetry as a record of the emotional life of the poet.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
Callaghan reads Shelley's letters and their biographical
concerns to illuminate his poetry, tracing the shifting relationship between
the poet's poetry and life. She shows that Shelley refused and exploded the
boundaries between the personal and poetic by reconfiguring life events within
his poetry and drama. The boundary between the poet's life and art is a
difficult one for a critic and often less useful than close textual analysis.
Callaghan makes a case for the ways in which Shelley transmutes the personal
into transformative poetry with Shelley's understanding that `the poet &
man are of two different natures' and that the `poem is the very image of life
expressed in its eternal truth', where truth and eternity clash.
Tears in the Fence