Monika H. Lee

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This dissertation, "The Presence of Jean-Jacques Rousseau In the Work of Percy Bysshe Shelley," is an inquiry into the important but previously unexamined literary relationship of Shelley and Rousseau, as it presents itself historically, intertextually and in relation to language theory. The initial chapter argues for Shelley's awareness of the legendary Rousseau through his works and also through Rousseau's influence on William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley. A literary historical context is established as a background against which a much more complicated series of representations of Rousseau in Shelley's poetry is set. The simplistic configurations in Shelley's England of Rousseau as a solitary wanderer, a madman, the champion of a nature cult, and a political reformer gave Shelley a literary figure with whom he could and did identify. But the affinities between Shelley and Rousseau are much deeper than these superficial self-projections on to the simplest of Rousseaus. Both writers exhibit an ongoing ambivalence in their views about the nature of language and reality--a conflict that may be described as a fundamental sense of the disjunction between form and meaning, organic and mechanistic theories of language, reason and passion, and other paradoxes associated with the name of Rousseau. In several close readings of Shelley's poems, Queen Mab, Alastor, Julian and Maddalo, The Sensitive Plant and The Triumph of Life, the presence of Rousseau as a figure in or behind the text is examined in relation to Shelley's thematizations of language, his paradoxical loyalty to two seemingly incompatible theories of language (natural and empirical), his oscillations between poles of idealism and scepticism, and his psychological introspection.



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