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Criticism of Consciousness in Shelley's A Defence of Poetry

From: Philosophy and Literature
Volume 2, Number 1, Spring 1978
pp. 46-59 | 10.1353/phl.1978.0001

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Criticism of Consciousness in Shelley's A Defence of Poetry
John Robert Leo
University of Rhode Island


1. Poetical Works, ed. Thomas Hutchinson, 2nd ed. rev. G. B. Matthews (1905; rpt. London: Oxford University Press, 1970), pp. 604-605. All references to poems are from this edition, cited as PW in my text. Unless specified otherwise, quotations from the prose are from Shelley's Prose: The Trumpet of a Prophecy, ed. David Lee Clark (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1966); titles of the appropriate essays are given parenthetically in my text with page number. I have used The Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley, 2 vols. ed. Frederick L. Jones (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964); references are in my text and cited as Letters with volume and page.

2. Speaking and Meaning: The Phenomenology of Language (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976), p. 157. See also Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Prose of the World, ed. Claude Lefort, trans. John O'Neill (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1973); Philip E. Lewis, "Merleau-Ponty and the Phenomenology of Language," Yale French Studies (1966), rpt. Structuralism, ed. Jacques Ehrmann (Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Books, 1970), pp. 9-31; and boundary 2, 4 (1976), issue on Heidegger and literature.

3. Edie, Speaking and Meaning, p. 166.

4. See Carl Woodring, Politics in English Romantic Poetry (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970), chap. 6; Kenneth Neill Cameron, Shelley: The Golden Years (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1974), chap 3; and E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1968).

5. The inability to see the "aspects" of things because of an inability to experience words as experience is raised by Wittgenstein in Philosophical Investigations, tr. G. E. M. Anscombe (New York: Macmillan, 1953), pp. 213e-14e. On the relations of industrialization, slogan, and linguistic subversion, see Ferruccio Rossi-Landi, Ideologies of Linguistic Relativity (The Hague: Mouton, 1973), p. 66 ff.

6. See Edie, chap. 5, "Metaphorical Expressions," Speaking and Meaning, pp. 151-94; cf. Jonathan Culler, "Beyond Interpretation: The Prospects of Contemporary Criticism," Comparative Literature, 28 (1976): 964-75.

7. Culture and Society: 1780-1950 (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1958), esp. pp. 35-42.

8. I am indebted to two useful essays exploring "fact" and its aesthetic abstraction and the different meanings and experiences of "objectivity": Samuel Todes, "Sensuous Abstraction and the Abstract Sense of Reality," in New Essays in Phenomenology: Studies in the Philosophy of Experience, ed. James M. Edie (Chicago: Quandrangle Books, 1969), pp. 15-23; and Samuel Todes and Hubert L. Dreyfus, "The Existentialist Critique of Objectivity," in Patterns of the Life-World: Essays in Honor of John Wild, ed. James M. Edie et al. (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1970), pp. 346-87.

9. The quoted terms are Edmund Husserl's in Ideas: General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology, trans. W. R. Boyce Gibson (1913, 1931; London: Collier-Macmillan, 1962), sections 1, 4, 5, 23, and 38-41. Throughout my text I give within parentheses first the appropriate section number followed by a slash and the page numbers. See also Paul Ricoeur, Husserl: An Analysis of His Phenomenology (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1967).

10. In "Eye and Mind," The Primacy of Perception and Other Essays, ed. James M. Edie (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1964), pp. 159-90.

11. See, for example, the discussion in Ideas on the play of fancy in the geometer's production of models and drawings (70/182-83). Edie clarifies the different kinds of objects created by various conscious acts (Speaking and Meaning, pp. 1-44).

12. Cf. Mikel Dufrenne, The Notion of the "A Priori," trans. Edward S. Casey (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1966).

13. Edie, Speaking and Meaning, pp. 7, 10-11.

14. Husserl began developing his thoughts on the eidetic reduction prior to Ideas but treats the problem formally in that volume.

15. I have been helped considerably here by both the conversation and research of Samuel Todes; see his "Comparative Phenomenology of Perception and Imagination: Perception," Journal of Existentialism, 6 (1966): 253-68; Part II: "Imagination," 7 (1966): 3-20.

16. Todes, "Imagination," pp. 6-18.