In their recurrent focus on the relationship between narrative and experience, “testimony” and “relics,” the Lyrical Ballads show Wordsworth to be our first truly archaeological poet, the first to take seriously the notion of “pre-history” as a mode of encountering the material world in the present, and not just a way of designating a material world that pre-dates written records. Wordsworth’s reading in Druid history, and specifically William Stukeley’s accounts of barrow excavations near Stonhenge and Avebury, helped to shape the poet’s understanding of “pre-history” in this sense. “The Thorn”, with its reiterations of measurement and spatial orientation relative to the site of a mound that may or may not be “an infant’s grave,” reflects the specific influence of Stukeley’s accounts, as well as Wordsworth’s preoccupation with the mystery of how whatever “remains” in the present manages to make present, in the space and time of a universal history, the historian or poetic “pre-historian” who has encountered it.
Reader-focused analyses of frame narrative (usually assuming and elaborating a liminal, distinguishing, or transitional “picture-frame” metaphor) are incomplete, describing only the initial experience of “coming at” and “moving off from” the text as a pre-existing artifact. An alternative analysis would emphasize narrative acts and enabling texts (guided by the metaphor of an internal, form-giving “frame-work”), and thus describe the process by which the textual artifact comes into being, shaping itself over time into the text we eventually read. In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, we might distinguish three frame sequences: a reading sequence, an action sequence, and a narrative sequence. The narrative sequence is the primary, enabling frame shaping the novel, and is dependent upon three levels of narrative refiguring: rhetorical, elemental, and intentional. Each narrative act in Shelley’s novel is enabled and shaped by a previous narrative act, and each narrative text produced by these acts is the peculiar result of the narrative sequence that engenders it. The tension between narrative act and narrative text in Frankenstein forms a fundamental dialectic process, producing an ambiguously authoritative artifact.
Habermas argues that in the eighteenth century, private vices were translated into public virtues; from the intimate spaces of the conjugal family came the public virtues of companionate love, voluntary association, and self-cultivation; from private commerce came acquisitiveness, competition, and rational calculation. This essay uses Habermas to reexamine Foucaultian histories of sexuality, arguing that the enormous medical literature on pleasure--luxury, sexual pleasure, masturbation, nerves--polices this transition from private vice to public virtue, but in sometimes surprising ways. The key was to explain why certain pleasurable experiences (acquisitiveness for its own sake and sexual intimacy outside the normative middle-class family) were not legitimately or even empirically pleasurable, despite potential somatic evidence to the contrary.
This article addresses the relationships between Percy Bysshe Shelley's non-violent politics and the gothic drama of Joanna Baillie. Both authors see violence as an inherent part of masculinity. For Baillie, this takes the form of what Anne Mellor calls the domestic sublime. The sublime places transcendent value on masculine violence, bracing for the male subject when the threat of violence is distanced. Writing in the tradition of feminine romanticism that Mellor outlines, Baillie sees this violence as directed at women and terrifying rather than awe-inspiring for its victims. Influenced by her work, Shelley seeks to critique violence against women. Unable to imagine a masculinity that is non-violent, he turns instead to a passive femininity that he viewed as innocent of the excesses of masculine violence, and in such heroines as Cythna, this passivity holds out the hope of effective political and social reform. In writing The Cenci, however, he finds the feminine ineffectual in dealing with the actualities of the experiences of a victim of violence. The situational nature of stage drama emphasizes the intimacy and reality of violence and its terror for women as its victims. As Beatrice's passive endurance fails to overcome her oppressive father, she actively resists. Shelley is not able to create an effective resistance to violence that is not itself violent, so he instead has Beatrice turn to a masculinizing violence that he then condemns. Through his identification with Beatrice, he reconciles himself to the violence of his own masculinity not by practicing non-violence, but by condemning a violence he accepts as part of his masculinity.
Recognizing Plato’s role as dramatist rather than as stenographer for Socrates reveals that the Ion presents a model for the creation and transfer of meaning that is remarkably similar to that described by Shelley’s A Defence of Poetry. Even though Socrates criticizes the poet for diluting the truth, Plato’s text, through its metaphor of the iron rings and through its own structure as a dramatic dialogue, presents and itself serves as a model of how meaning is created, a model which serves as a basis for Shelley’s text. The Ion’s iron rings suggest the interminable progression of metaphor by which meaning is constructed and kept current, and this view of language, in which meaning is constructed by the poet rather than reflected or distorted, points to a reprieve for poetry from Socrates’s banishment of it in Republic X.