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The work of the negative: symbolic, Gothic, and Romantic in Shelley and Hegel.


IN A DEFENCE OF POETRY (1821), AMIDST SEVERAL CONVENTIONALLY ROMANTIC figurations of it, (1) Shelley also describes poetry as a secret alchemy that turns to potable gold the poisonous waters that flow from death through life" (533). The phrase marks the persistence in Shelley's work of what Jerrold Hogle calls a "Gothic sensibility," and points back to his second Gothic novel St. Irvyne (1811), (2) whose plot has as its absent cause the alchemist Ginotti. In that novel Ginotti sees a "phantasm ... borne on the sweet strain of music." Like the famous Brocken-spectre that so fascinated the Romantics, (3) this phantasm suddenly changes into a "gigantic and deformed" shape (St. Irvyne, 237), anticipating Shelley's last poem, The Triumph of Life (1822). For Hogle, discussing the earlier work, Shelley struggles against this "'Gothic' psyche" with its "oscillation between light and darkness," seeking to transform death into life, and managing to put an "'intelligent' Soul" in the place of "Gothic vacancy" through a "kind of deism." (4) In this paper I will suggest a more profoundly generative relationship between the Romantic and Gothic, while thinking the Gothic more broadly in terms of what Shelley's contemporary Hegel calls the Symbolic. For Hegel uses the term "Symbolic" in a sense almost opposite to the way it is understood by Goethe and Coleridge, so as to signify an art that is premature and malformed rather than one that embodies the general in the particular. (5) Unusually for a period in which the aesthetic was associated with the beautiful, Hegel also makes a place for this art that fails to "adequate[ly]" embody "the Idea," which can only be signified through "symbols" that set the reader the task of deciphering them "without actually attaining to the decipherment." (6)

As a form that is adolescent and manic, the Hegelian Symbolic aptly describes one side of the disconnection of modes in St. Irvyne. The novel has two plots whose disjunction, lest we fail to notice it, is also marked by the omission of two chapters. In the main plot the ostensible hero is Wolftein, though its prime mover is Ginotti, the obscure symbolic figure who sanctions Wolftein's poisoning of the bandit Cavigni in order to obtain the lovely Megalena de Metastasio. The names are themselves significant, in this novel that egregiously confuses foreign nationalities: Ginotti suggests an Italian cunning, whereas Wolfstein's name is rough and Germanic. In the main plot Ginotti functions as the Mephistophelean shadow and Dark Interpreter of the increasingly dissolute Wolfstein, until the plot disposes of both of them in its Faustian conclusion. But the novel is also sporadically intersected by a Radcliffean subplot, focused on the more elegantly named Eloise, who turns out to be Wolfstein's sister, even though she is French while he is Bohemian. Eloise is seduced by the casuistical Nempere, rescued by another libertine, and finally ends up marrying Fitzeustace, a Peacockian parody of the typical Shelleyan Poet. This Romantic subplot fantastically escapes the Gothic sensibility of the main plot by which it is enveloped. For Nempere turns out to be Ginotti, which means that Nempere, though killed off in the subplot, is still alive in the main plot, thus casting doubt on whether his metamorphic alias Ginotti is indeed dead. But do we want to dispose of Ginotti and the work of the negative figured by the Gothic? And do the reductive conventions of the Gothic, in turn, foreclose upon a certain Symbolic excess in the novel? Or does the novel's titular echo of Godwin's St. Leon (1799), where alchemy is also a figure for schemes of sociopolitical improvement, make Ginotti a shorthand figure for some future and as yet undigested transformation of "the poisonous waters that flow from death through life" (DP, 533)?

Indeed before its unsatisfying conclusion, Ginotti had opened up the Symbolic potential of the Gothic by promising Wolfstein the elixir of life. As a prelude to this unfulfilled promise he had launched into his biographia literaria, conferring an unexpected metaphysical depth on an otherwise juvenile literary performance. Ginotti tells Wolfstein how by the age of seventeen he had delved into the secrets of "natural philosophy" and "metaphysical calculations," convincing himself of "the non-existence of a First Cause" (St. Irvyne, 234). He then describes how this epistemological transgression led him to experiment with poison, kilting a youth who had offended him. "Physiology" in the sense used in an increasingly influential Naturphilosophie crossed the boundary between the internal workings of the human body and the forces and powers in nature as a whole. (7) Having pushed the boundaries of physiology by experimenting with poison, and having then found death at the heart of life, Ginotti explains how he became at once despairingly nihilistic and avid for the secret of eternal life. Contemplating suicide, he found himself on the edge of an "expansive gulf," facing a "form of most exact and superior symmetry," the Brockenspectre with which we began. The remainder of the passage is worth quoting at length:

The phantasm advanced towards me; it seemed then, to my imagination, that his figure was borne on the sweet strain of music which filled the circumambient air. In a voice which was fascination itself, the being addressed me, saying, 'Wilt thou come with me? Wilt thou be mine?' I felt a decided wish never to be his. 'No, no,' I unhesitatingly cried, with a feeling which no language can either explain or describe. No sooner had I uttered these words, than methought a sensation of deadly horror chilled my sickening flame ... the beautiful being vanished; clouds, as of chaos, rolled around, and from their dark masses flashed incessant meteors.... My neck was grasped firmly and, turning round in an agony of horror, I beheld a form more hideous than the imagination of man is capable of portraying, whose proportions, gigantic and deformed, were seemingly blackened by the inerasible traces of the thunderbolts of God; yet in its hideous and detestable countenance, though seemingly far different, I thought I could recognize that of the lovely vision. (St. Irvyne, 237)

As already noted this passage looks forward to the central segment of The Triumph of Life, where Rousseau narrates his symbolic autobiography. In Rousseau's dream-vision, the Shape all Light, the aestheticization of a revolutionary idealism that Ginotti pursues in more Sadeian and Nietzschean ways, suddenly becomes the deformed shape in the Car, returning us to the Gothic scene that opens the character "Shelley's" dream-vision of history. As in St. Irvyne, while the figure constructed by Romantic idealism is disfigured, (8) it never quite ceases to be present in the "severe excess" of a disenchantment whose enlightenment it haunts: "The ghost of a forgotten form of sleep" (TL, 424-28). While it may seem in both cases that we proceed sequentially from illusion to disillusion, both texts are better described as folding the Gothic and Romantic into each other. In St. Irvyne the romance of Eloise and Fitzeustace, which itself exists only by repressing a traumatic Gothic kernel, is enveloped within a larger narrative of Faustian depravity that conceals a core of idealism disclosed and defaced in Ginotti's vision. Likewise in The Triumph of Life, the character Shelley's dream vision is infolded with Rousseau's in a pattern of blindness and insight that confuses misprision and enlightenment. For while Rousseau awakens from his encounter with the Shape all Light to the nightmare of history, "Shelley" dreams this nightmare which folds inwards and backwards to a core of idealism at the heart of darkness. (9)

In connecting the passage from St. Irvyne to Shelley's last poem, (10) I want therefore to suggest that it entwines the Gothic and Romantic in a way that is emblematic of the role Gothic has come to play in Romantic Studies. For in the past several years the Gothic has arguably replaced the greater Romantic lyric as a generic synecdoche for the field, though without the metacritical recognition that M. H. Abrams gave the lyric. (11) Or put differently, the Gothic has assumed the task of deconstructing what has variously been called "aesthetic ideology" or "Romantic ideology," (12) in particular, because it makes manifest, almost schematically, what Godwin calls the "Gothic and unintelligible burden of past institutions." (13) The prominence of the Gothic also marks a shift from so-called "High" Romanticism to the popular that might superficially seem to be part of "cultural studies." Yet unlike cultural studies, if the Gothic deconstructs Romantic ideology, it does so on the ground of literature, by exposing Romanticism to its own in(di)gestion of the work of the negative, rather than by demystifying it from the outside as a social or economic phenomenon. Thus in Shelley's major poems (as also in Blake's Lambeth books), the Romantic is never free of the Gothic, an example from Shelley's most ethereal text being the unprocessed melodrama of Demogorgon's victory over Jove. But equally, the Gothic too is never free of the Romantic, which is to say that Shelley allows us to grasp a transfigurative potential in the Gothic that is less evident in more popular uses of the genre.

We can approach Shelley's linkage of the Romantic with the Gothic through Hegel's distinction between Symbolic and Romantic art, modes he opposes but sees as profoundly connected. Hegel is particularly useful because on the one hand, while the Gothic does not fall chronologically within the Oriental phase that he delimits as Symbolic, his descriptions of what is in effect an Asiatic rather than Attic style as monstrous and fantastic apply equally to the Gothic (A, 1:76). On the other hand, the Symbolic is a broader category than the Gothic, and insofar as it includes the sublime it can open up the Gothic philosophically beyond the sensationalism to which the sheer mass production of the genre at the time reduces it. Indeed there is a certain consistency between Hegel's unconventional placement of the sublime in the Symbolic phase and my use of the Symbolic to think through the (pre)Romantic genre of the Gothic. For both anachronisms register the generative potential of a mode whose disfigurations form part of a creative negativity.

Briefly Hegel theorizes three modes based on art's ability fully to configure the Idea, a term adapted from Kant, but which becomes curiously unreferred in Hegel, since the Idea is not the Idea "of" anything. For Kant in the First Critique ideas of pure Reason, as distinct from "concepts" of the mere understanding, exceed anything possible in experience. (14) In the Third Critique he then subdivides these ideas into "aesthetic ideas," which are "representations of the imagination" to which no "determinate thought" is "adequate," and "rational ideas," which are "indemonstrable concept[s] of reason" that cannot be given a material form, such as freedom or God. Thus a certain inadequacy seems to be at the heart of the Kantian "Idea." Post-Kantian Idealism develops this notion of ideas as "striv[ing] toward something lying beyond the bounds of experience" (15) in a temporal and historical direction. Thus while Schelling initially associates ideas with the transcendent realm of archetypes and Platonic ideas, in the Freedom essay the Idea "hidden in the divided ground" is something amorphous, connoting simply an idealism by which life "steers itself." (16) What the Post-Kantians call the Idea, as an idealizing spirit or drive underlying history, Shelley cathects onto "poetry": in A Defence, poetry is a developing creativity that exceeds generic or even historical containment, and that Shelley sometimes describes in hyper-idealized language and sometimes in deformed, even Gothic terms.

In the sequence Hegel charts, the Symbolic, Classical and Romantic involve three different relations between the "Idea" and its embodiment, between "meaning and shape," theme and "execution," or "inwardness" and its externalization (A, 1:75, 79, 96, 422). In the Symbolic, which is pre-art, pre-mature, art fails to achieve identity with itself because of a deficiency in self-consciousness that is reflected in the Idea still being "indeterminate." This problem is overcome in the Classical, as art becomes "the adequate embodiment of the Idea" in plastic form (A, 1:76-77). For the Classical brings to fruition "the self-determining Concept in its adequate actualization" (A, 1:317). The Concept in turn can achieve actualization because, as Karl Jaspers says in commenting on Kant, where ideas make things "too big for the understanding," concepts make them "too little for reason." (17) Because concepts are produced by the understanding, which is "the faculty of rules," while reason is "the faculty of principles," (18) concepts are limited to what we already know or do. As the "adequate actualization" of the Concept (19) Hegel's "classical form," with its emphasis on rules, "puts a stop to the purely symbolizing and sublime preliminary experiments of art" with ideas that are too big to be embodied (A, 1:317). But for this reason it cannot really be the "adequate embodiment of the Idea," since what it brings to fruition is indeed only "the Concept of the Idea," "the Idea as reality" (A, 1:74), which is necessarily a limitation of the Idea. (20) Thus in the Romantic, form and content are again separated, this time because of a deficiency in matter that repeats and reverses the problems of the Symbolic. For while the Idea in the Symbolic fails to embody itself because of its own deficiency, in the Romantic mode Hegel claims that the Idea is fully developed, but can no longer find its "adequate reality" in the "shapes" available to it in its culture (A, 1:442). Hence the "Romantic" fascination with the ineffable and inexpressible.

Act IV of Prometheus Unbound, or Act II, scene i, where Asia grasps Panthea's dreams only by reading her sister's "written soul" in her eyes (II.i.110), are examples of this Romanticism that Hegel sees as pressing beyond mediation. In their dialogue on dreams, the Idea, which Shelley will present in the Cave of Demogorgon as having neither "form nor outline" (II.iv.5-6), and thus as lying "hidden in the divided ground," is more conventionally developed as an "archetype" (21) raised from intuition to Reason through a seamless process of "wordless converse" (II.i.52). By contrast, the Symbolic is often associated with the monstrous or fantastic, and dis-figures its too hasty hypostasis of the Idea, a description we can extend to the Gothic. Thus, in St. Irvyne, Nempere de-forms rather than embodies Ginotti, who is himself the inchoate materialization of a juvenile and indeterminate Idea that originally has neither "form nor outline." But returning to Hegel, what is notable in his dialectic is the odd position of the Classical, as a synthesis that comes in the middle and must be surpassed. For the Classical, as the "unity of the artist's subjective activity with his ... work," "achieves what true art is in its essential nature" (A, 1:431, 427). Yet Hegel is dissatisfied with this completion, and thus the Classical must be superseded by the Romantic. And the Romantic in turn reverts to the difference of Idea and shape in the Symbolic, as if it is really inadequacy that is the essence of art.

We sense Hegel's disappointment with the Classical when he says that the Classical artist adequately embodies the Idea only because he receives his content "cut and dried" from "national faith and myth." That his thinking is done for him at the level of ideology leaves him free to perfect the work's "external appearance," thus giving it that beauty and unity which make it seem like a complete embodiment of the Idea (A, 1:439). In more technical, philosophical terms, the "adequate" embodiment of the Idea can thus be nothing but the more limited "Concept," which tells us what we already know. By contrast, Symbolic art senses "the inadequacy of its ... shapes and yet can call in aid nothing but the distortion of shapes," by which it "posit[s] it[self] as the inherently deficient, something to be superseded" (A, 1:318-19). Yet the Symbolic, as a mode in which the "Idea ... does violence" to "natural shapes," "distorts and stretches" these shapes "unnaturally" in order to "elevate their phenomenal appearance to the Idea" (A, 1:76). There is thus something sublime in the deformations of the Symbolic that distinguishes it both from the self-satisfaction of the Classical and from the ineffectually angelic claims of the Romantic, and as we have noted Hegel does locate the sublime in Symbolic rather than Romantic art. In a strange way the Symbolic artist, "toss[ing] about in a thousand forms," and adapting "to the meaning sought the shapes that ever remain alien," possesses a greater freedom than the Classical artist. (22) This "restless fermentation" of forms is part of the "labour" of the negative, wherein consciousness is still "producing its content and making it clear to itself," rather than resting complacently in an ideology "already determined for imagination as settled" (A, 1:438-39).

Symbolic art can be approached through the concept of inhibition which Hegel's ertswhile friend Friedrich Schelling developed from his First Outline of a System of the Philosophy of Nature (1799) to Ages of the World (1815). According to Schelling for something "real" to come out of an "infinite productive activity, that activity must be inhibited, retarded." (23) But this inhibition or Hemmung is not only the imposition of a bounding line on the formless, as in Blake's formulation of "Reason" in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell as "the outward bound of energy." Instead, as in the contraction or restriction imposed by Blake's Gothic Urizen on an Eternity of infinite expansion and formlessness, inhibition has the more ontological and psychoanalytic connotation of "something inhibiting" that "imposes itself": a "darkening that resists the light," an "obliquity that resists the straight," or an "involution" that resists "evolution." (24) Discussing inhibition in The First Outline, though with reference to "the graduated stages of nature" as it moves up the Chain of Being, Schelling sees the "absolute product" as developing through a process of "continuous deviations" from an "ideal," in which it is "inhibited at various stages," resulting in "the production of various genera and species." (25) Each product in the series of "misbegotten attempts" to "represent the absolute" is "restricted" by the "peculiar character" of its "stage of development" and is then limited "to a determinate sphere of formation," where it remains stuck, as it were, only able to reproduce itself ad infinitum. (26)

This account of an evolutionary series of "products" in nature is the basis for the evolutionary history that underlies all Hegel's phenomenologies of "Spirit," in philosophy, history itself, religion, and aesthetics. But Hegel adds to it a vocabulary of mediation that allows him to think the aesthetic product as restricted or inhibited by its historical moment. Such restriction, whether as delimitation or limitation, is a feature of all art, even the Classical. But it is in the Symbolic in particular that inhibition seems to be foregrounded as a principle of construction that explicitly raises the problem of a cultural determination that is "bad and untrue" (A, 1:74). Yet for Hegel restriction is not stagnation, and this is the fascination held for him by the Symbolic, as well as the value of the Symbolic to understanding the creative potential of the Gothic. For on the one hand the inhibited product, the Gothic novel for instance, cannot develop beyond its particular stage. And so in St. Irvyne Shelley must dismantle his misbegotten creature by killing off Ginotti and Wolfstein and prematurely winding up the plot with the frustrating algebra: "Ginotti is Nempere. Eloise is the sister of Wolfstein. Let then the memory of these victims to hell and malice live in the remembrance of those who can pity the wanderings of error" (252). Here Shelley concedes that he has gone as far as he can in his juvenile experiment with a Promethean Idea that he can realize only with a bad and untrue determinacy. But on the other hand from the moment of its "diremption" as Schelling calls it, from the moment when the individual product "[tears itself] away from universal Nature," it "no longer completely expresses the character of the stage of development at which it stood." For Shelley in the Defence, the equivalent of what Schelling calls the "absolute product" or "absolute organism" (27) from which an individual text might tear itself away as an unsuccessful attempt, is that "great poem, which all poets, like the co-operating thoughts of one great mind" are involved in "build[ing] up," and in which the particular text is simply an "episode" (DP, 522). In tearing itself away from this universal "poem," the individual text at once tries to define its own space but also puts itself under erasure, as both Shelley's Gothic novels do in ex-terminating their characters and terms of reference. Yet as Schelling argues, it is precisely this diremption that makes the individual product open to further development, since it is not "a finished product, not a product upon which Nature could cease to work, although of course its further development is deranged by that separation and is then inhibited at this stage." (28) This paradox of a product that is limited by its moment and yet for that very reason an unfinished project is what leads Hegel to speak of the "restless fermentation of the Symbolic" as a mode in which consciousness is still "producing its content and making it clear to itself" (A, 1:438)

To be sure Hegel tries to put the Symbolic behind him because it is pagan and uncouth. He places the Romantic higher on his dialectical spiral because its dissonance of matter and spirit takes the more Christian form of a spirit emancipated from the body, and so accords better with criteria of beauty. And indeed the Romantic is consistent with aesthetics as the art of thinking beautifully, as Alexander Baumgarten defines it. Shelley expresses the same bias in favor of aesthetic ideology in A Defence of Poetry when he claims that the "poetry existing in Chivalry and Christianity ... erase[s]" the "deformities and imperfections" of earlier social formations (DP, 518), But for Hegel the Romantic is an alibi for revisiting the Symbolic, and as a result the judgment of one as superior to the other is stylistic but not logical. In the Symbolic, we are told, the Idea is deficient, whereas in the Romantic, it is the forms in which the Idea expresses itself that are lacking. But if the Symbolic warps the forms in which it expresses itself, is this not also because these forms are inadequate, or as Shelley more sublimely says, because its "distorted notions of invisible things" are "the mask and the mantle" in which poetry "walk[s] through eternity enveloped and disguised" (DP, 526)? And if the Romantic cannot find forms adequate to its expression, is this not because its Idea too is in some way undeveloped? For if art needs an "external medium for its expression" which would be the quod erat demonstrandum of the Idea, the Romantic is also defective insofar as it resists an "adequate union with the external" (A, 1:81).

Indeed Hegel concedes the difficulty of distinguishing Symbolic and Romantic when he says that the Romantic "reverts, even if in a higher way," to the Symbolic (A, 1:79). He further explains that the Symbolic is a "battle between the content which still resists true art and the form which is not homogeneous with that content either" (A, 1:317). If the Symbolic resists true art, this is because the aesthetic as the art of thinking beautifully is seen as a mode in which the artist's will and activity are not at odds with external forms. But then by this definition of art the Romantic too cannot be true art. At issue in this history of the aesthetic in which most art fails in one way or another to be true art is the very criterion of "adequacy" as essential to "the true nature of art" (A, 1:317). For as Hegel also says, "the specific shape which every content of the Idea gives to itself in the particular forms of art is always adequate to that content" (A, 1:300), which means that Symbolic forms must also be organic dis-integrations of their content; they must also be "true" art. The "end of art" (A, 1:602) and its supersession by philosophy is supposedly the dialectical resolution of this aporia. But this "end," unlike the "end of history," is as much a symptom of Hegel's inability to resolve the tensions between his own "Idea" of art and its execution, or between the essence of art and its more complex history. (29) Thus rather than concluding that there is no future for art, we should see this figure of the end of art as marking the ex-termination of a term that is exhausted in its current conception. Like Foucault's "end of man" in The Order of Things, (30) the end of art, if taken in conjunction with what art has proven to be in the Aesthetics, functions as a form of deconstruction that provides the condition of the possibility for new configurations of the aesthetic to be thought.

But as we think such configurations, it is important to recognize the difference as well as affinity between the Symbolic and Romantic, which makes each the incompletion of the other. Pinnacled dim in the intense inane, the Romantic artist is the beautiful soul that Hegel criticizes at the end of the Phenomenology of Spirit. (31) He is superior to the Symbolic artist because he withdraws from the discourses embedded in existing shapes into the clarity of a free resistance, while his Symbolic counterpart is at the mercy of contemporary material, his imagination deformed by what it cannot form. Yet this Romantic retreat into Spirit also constitutes a form of bad infinity, the infinite deferral of the ideal into the future. It is for this reason that Derrida criticizes Kant because he both defers the differences within the Idea by not thinking those differences "now," and yet already prejudges what the Idea will be in the future. (32) By contrast the Symbolic artist does not refuse mediation, but works on content at the material site of contemporary forms. This work is precisely what Hegel calls the work of the "negative," (33) even though paradoxically it involves a certain positivity, a positing of cultural forms. But of course this positivity is also something that Hegel criticizes. For it often results in a "bad and untrue determinacy" in which the speculative potential of the dissonance between "Idea and shape" is prematurely foreclosed (A, 1:76-77). Thus Ginotti, as an Idea that has neither "form nor outline," is given an untrue determinacy by the role he actually plays in the narrative, a role constricted by the form Shelley had available to him, namely Faustian melodrama. And Zastrozzi too, in Shelley's previous Gothic novel, is conventionalized by the way his author has been interpellated into the model of revenge tragedy. As a genre the Gothic is not unaware of its bad and untrue determinacy: indeed it seems to mark its conventionalism, its badness, as a way of breaking the molds into which it is forced.

For Shelley such deformations of "poetry" occur in "periods of the decay of social life," such as the one he describes after the Restoration, when "vice," "weakness," and "obscenity" take over (DP, 520-21), an account that applies equally to the depraved world of the Gothic novels associated with Italy and Bohemia. When Shelley dismisses Symbolic disfiguration by associating it with social decay, he writes from a conventionally "Romantic" perspective. But while Wolfstein, as a further avatar of Ginotti, has no potential beyond this depravity, Ginotti's dream-vision gestures to something more: "something not yet made good" that "pushes its essence forward," to quote Jurgen Habermas on the utopianism of Ernst Bloch. (34)

That Hegel too cannot simply dismiss the Symbolic is reflected in his placement of the sublime in the Symbolic and not, as we might expect, in the Romantic phase. This anachronism--at least in terms of the Romantics' valorization of the sublime--registers the fact that Symbolic art is both limited by an untrue determinacy, yet expanded and overdetermined by an indeterminacy that allows for the further development of the Idea. Its bad determinacy is a "symbolic resolution," in Fredric Jameson's terms: a temporary and culturally conditioned overriding of contradictions that must occur if negativity is to be invested in the work of history. The Romantic, by contrast, provides a purely "imaginary resolution" of underlying contradictions in a form that can be more easily aligned with "Spirit." (35) But it is only through the Symbolic's investment in history that art can remain responsible to the cultural unconscious, or to what is left out in its attempt to classically domicile the Idea or romantically defer it into an infinite and dematerialized future. We see this investment in history in Shelley's early Gothic novels, albeit at an archetypal level that erases distinct historical and geographical markers. For the characters move with confusing rapidity between France, Germany, and an Italy that is not Dante's Florence but the Venice of the Borgias. Meanwhile Eloise's home seems to be in France (185), though her brother Wolfstein is Bohemian.

In A Defence Shelley's description of the decayed history that he purports to despise is indeed strikingly Gothic. The "obscenity" of the Restoration, he says, "is a monster for which the corruption of society for ever brings forth new food, which it devours in secret" (DP, 521). And yet this supposed monster curiously recalls the schizophrenic account a few pages earlier, when Shelley describes poetry as enlarging "the circumference of the imagination by replenishing it with thoughts of ever new delight," but then also describes these thoughts as "form[ing] new intervals and interstices whose void for ever craves fresh food" (DP, 517). It is as if the very deformities of periods that do not achieve the classical purity of Athens are the hiding-places of historical vitality, while by contrast, as Hegel suggests, "periods of happiness are blank pages in [history], periods of harmony, when antithesis is in abeyance." (36)

In short, the Symbolic and Romantic exist in a kind of synergy. In Shelley's Defence Gothic and Romantic discourses are not even distinguished; the two are run together as if to make the point that the Romantic draws its energy from the poisons its disavows. In Hegel's case the terms are differentiated, requiring us to think them within a dialectic that we can rethink as circular rather than progressive. For when Hegel associates the Symbolic with a bad and untrue positivity, we must remember that for him as for Schelling, positing is not simply positive. Positing always entails a negation, restriction, or inhibition of what is left out in the act of positing or of "determining" the undetermined. This constriction is marked for Hegel by the distortive nature of the Symbolic, as when Ginotti's potentiality metastasizes in Nempere, who is a mis-figuration of the radical potential of libertinism as part of the matrix that also produced the philosophes. The Symbolic in fact has two aspects: its restless "fermentation" of ideas (A, 1:76), and, because this ferment cannot endlessly continue, its binding of the infinite in limiting form. However, unlike the Classical, which is also a giving of form to the formless, the Symbolic does not allow form to seem natural or organic, but insists on it as a barbaric imposition. Recognizing the limitation of the Classical as the formal simulation of thought's completion, Hegel therefore introduces the Romantic to unwork form and formulation once again, as subjectivity, yet again fails to "find its adequate reality" in external shapes (A, 1:442).

Hegel's categories thus allow us to imagine a dialectic that circulates imagination between its necessary but premature hypostasis in the Symbolic, and withdraws it as "Spirit" from the concepts that limit it so as to think it once again. Putting the Symbolic and Romantic in a (dia)critical relationship, it also lets us read the Symbolic romantically for the "potencies" it disguises and envelops in the stereotypes of the time. However, this dialectic, or perhaps more accurately "restlessness of the negative," is necessarily circular. The Romantic cannot simply correct the Symbolic or supersede Classicism's overcoming of the Symbolic, since the Romantic too risks mystifying the Idea as pure Spirit, leading to what has been critiqued more recently as Romantic or aesthetic "ideology." In Shelley's own terms, we could say that while the Symbolic is "a mirror which obscures and distorts that which should be beautiful," the Romantic conversely is "a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted" (DP, 515). But the distorted does not go away, since idealization, the core process of the Romantic, is itself a form of inhibition. As the Kleinian analyst Andre Green argues, idealization--for instance in the awkward sentimentalization of the Poet in Alastor--is an inability to integrate the good object into the ego. It is thus a disguised form of the negative that both elevates and draws back from the idealized object, not just because it is too good, but also because there is something missing in this object that prevents it from being posited except as fantasy. Thus the Romantic's tendency to find its adequate reality in the ineffable must once again be disfigured by the Symbolic, as happens in the insistent return of the Gothic throughout Shelley's corpus. In its disfiguration of the Romantic Idea the Gothic is thus part of what Green, following Hegel, calls the work of the negative, (37) whether as a transitional negation of Romanticism's tendency to settle into aesthetic ideology, or as an untransformed potentiality aware of its traumatic core. Conceived on this model, the work of art is not form or hypostasis, but "configuration," "the work on form, the deformation of form" as much as its "formation." (38)


Let me then sketch three different Shelleyan variations on the relation between the Romantic and its Symbolic, Gothic disfiguration: in Alastor (1816), Prometheus Unbound (1820), and The Triumph of Life (1822). Of these, Prometheus Unbound provides the most straightforward case, since here the Gothic is no more than a concessive clause. Shelley allows that the Idea cannot be embodied in the forms available to it when he has Prometheus and Asia retire to a cave after their imaginary marriage, to dwell "Like human babes in their brief innocence" (II.iii.33). This Idea for which Prometheus himself is no more than a figure can only be associated with rational ideas such as those listed at the end of Act III, the thorny details of which remain to be worked out, as Kant well knew in his utopian projection of perpetual peace, translated into English along with other essays by Kant in the 1790S. (39)

Alternatively the Promethean age may be prefigured through aesthetic ideas, forms like "dreams," "spirits," and "echoes" that have yet to find a rational content. Shelley acknowledges this futurism of the Idea in the Gothic means that are still necessary to bring about the end of the Jovian age in the present. For if Demogorgon as discerned in his cave is a metaphysical principle that has neither "form nor outline," in order to act within time he is posited as Jove's son. The bad and untrue determinacy of this positing of the negative is then reflected in his brutal overthrowing of Jove in a manner completely at odds with the Promethean Idea, not to mention that this mechanical and abrupt revolution contradicts Shelley's insistence on a necessary causality leading from tyranny to its overthrow. Hence the play's closing concession that Jove, though repressed, may rise again, and that a variety of "spells" will be needed "to reassume / An empire o'er the disentangled Doom." These spells too are simply rational ideas that are yet to be made concretely convincing: "Gentleness, Virtue, Wisdom and Endurance" (IV. 562-69).

Nevertheless, in Shelley's lyrical drama the Romantic and the Gothic are held apart, segregated in different sectors of the play, and even visually cordoned off in different zones of the draft manuscript in which Shelley wrote Act Iv on one side of the page and parts of Act I on the other side. (40) Indeed the Gothic moment is highly attenuated, while the Gothic Furies are highly stylized, as if functioning largely as a shorthand reference to what Shelley knows he ought to take into account. And if Demogorgon's responses to Asia unwork her attempt to confirm God as an "indemonstrable concept of reason," the Symbolic indeterminacy with which he threatens her Romantic ideas is kept at a largely transcendental level in this text whose "imagery" Shelley describes in his Preface to the play as "drawn from the operations of the human mind, or from those external actions by which they are expressed" (PU, 207).

More affectively tangled is Alastor, which is a strange amalgam of lyric and Gothic modes. In the opening, the Narrator invokes the Muse of the Greater Romantic Lyric, only to describe himself as an "inspired but desperate Alchymist" who has made his "bed / In charnels and on coffins, where black death / Keeps records of the trophies won" from a Nature that resists anthropomorphism (23-25, 31). At the end, having failed to configure the Poet's life as a story told with enough consistency to endow him with credibility, the Narrator withdraws his "phantasm" (40) and concludes with a disconnected outburst on the elixir of life and the Wandering Jew. He describes himself as a "dark magician ... / Raking the cinders of a crucible / For life and power" (682-84), and appeals to "Medea's wondrous alchemy" (672) to "turn to potable gold" the disavowed poisons "that flow from death through life" (DP, 533). The Narrator's Gothic self-representation is matched by his lurid figure of the Poet, whose "divinest lineaments" are "Worn by the senseless wind" (Alastor, 704-5). It is as if the Narrator foresees the decay of the corpse of the Poet, whose grave was already only "a pyramid / Of mouldering leaves," which in turn allows his skin and bones to be blown around and literally caught on the thorns of life (53-54). And yet the Poet is also referred to Romantically as a "frail exhalation" and a "surpassing Spirit" (687, 714), a beautiful soul whose inwardness transcends his crumbling materiality.

Alastor is Shelley's "autonarration" of his unsettled relationship to "poetry," which he wants to conceive Romantically as pure idealism, what Browning calls "subjective poetry" or the "Ideas of Plato, seeds of creation, lying burningly on the Divine Hand." Indeed, in the essay on Shelley from which this quotation is taken, Browning's description of Shelley's corpus as a "sublime, fragmentary essay" is nothing if not stereotypically Romantic. (41) Yet the "frail" figure of the Poet in Alastor cannot bear this idealization. The depopulated global landscape through which he travels, the tattered scenery of a Nature that cannot be arranged in a Wordsworthian frame, and the perilous journey that the Poet takes in his drunken boat, all point to what might seem a more "modern" conception of poetry as a process of sifting through the wasteland of culture. This new form of poetry would emerge definitively in the later nineteenth century with Nerval, Baudelaire, and Rimbaud, as what Maurice Blanchot calls "the second slope of literature," "the essential solitude" (42) of a literature that withdraws from the prose of the world, but without being able to retreat into the artifice of pastoral. But Wordsworth had already come up against this solitude in The Ruined Cottage, whose interment in The Excursion Shelley evokes at the end of the "Preface" to Alastor. In the wake of The Ruined Cottage one can speculate that this second slope of literature forms itself in an earlier version of the void described by Jean-Luc Nancy in our own time, when globalization becomes world-urbanization. In this world-urbanization, which began in the Industrial Revolution, the city, rather than becoming a node of cosmopolitan culture, "spreads and extends" shapelessly "to cover the entire orb of the planet." (43) Shelley's poem articulates itself symptomatically on the fringes of this geo-historical shift, through the figure of a Poet scarcely conscious of the changes whose impress he bears but, as a result, has brought before us in the bare life of his unconsciousness.

Thus where Wordsworth sets aside London as an inferno, and where Austen protects the country's distinctness by letting the sub-metropolis of Bath mediate between city and country, in Alastor there is no longer any clear boundary between the two. Instead, in a way that makes it hard to bring the poem's world into focus as a picture, nature is deterritorialized by the wreckage of vacated cultures. These include classical Athens, the subject of praise in Shelley's attempted phenomenology of the spirit of poetry in the Defence (518-20), as well as "Tyre, and Balbec, and the waste / Where stood Jerusalem, the fallen towers / Of Babylon ... / Memphis and Thebes" (Alastor, 109-12). This "unfathomable" (18) environment is the shadow cast by developments Nancy describes, in which having lost "its properties as a city," there is a corresponding loss of "those properties" that allow nature to be delimited as the country, the result being "an unprecedented ecological catastrophe." (44) Registering the symptoms of this catastrophe, which removes from poetry its former pastoral protections, Alastor projects a nature that spirals inwards into its own dark recesses: labyrinths, wells, endless rivers that lead nowhere, and "death's blue vault, with loathliest vapours hung" (216).

This Gothicized nature, not landscape but inscape, bears the affective charge of cultural changes that have not been internalized by either the Poet or his author, and that are felt only in the missing syntax of the Poet's journey, which seems to repeat and double back on itself without leading anywhere, except to death. The result at the end is that Alastor is hysterically split between a Romantic "spirit" of poetry that is disconnected from the world through which the Poet moves, and its de-jection into the Gothic which, as Jerrold Hogle says, is a "peculiar cultural space into which the horrors generated by early modern cultural changes ... can be 'thrown off'" or abjected. (45) But to abject these materials is, in a curious way, both to disavow and to preserve them anachronistically as materials for the future. It is to defer dealing with what cannot be taken in: what must, in the long term, radically change our conception of a poetry that is now "unremembered" (Alastor, 671) because it is out of date. Throwing off these horrors, Shelley both protects "poetry" or the "idea" of poetry from its destruction by everything that seems at odds with "true art," and protects the horrors he cannot deal with by casting them into the future "crucible" (683) of a "void that for ever craves fresh food" (DP, 517): a figure for an imagination that avidly hungers for what it casts off.

For within the poem's rotary motion between Gothic and Romantic, negation and idealization there is also a curious series of references to the cultures of a lost Orient. Not only does the Poet travel through Memphis and Thebes, gazing at "speechless shapes" (Alastor, 123) and lingering among obelisks and sphinxes that are "memorials / Of the world's youth" (111-16, 119-20). The Narrator also houses the fragments he has shored against the ruin of his Idea of the Poet within a pile of disintegrating leaves that he metaphorically conserves as a "pyramid" (53). For Hegel, too, the art of Egypt, unlike the misbegotten creativity he often associates with Oriental art, intimates the potentiality and seriousness of the Symbolic. Egypt for Hegel is "the country of symbols, the country which sets itself the task of the self-deciphering of the spirit, without actually attaining to the decipherment." Describing the Egyptians as the only "properly artistic people" in the Oriental phase, Hegel nevertheless says that "their works remain mysterious and dumb, mute and motionless, because here spirit itself has still not really found its own inner life" and "cannot speak the clear and distinct language of spirit" (A, 1:354).

Egyptian art as exemplified by the pyramids is thus "a double architecture, one above ground, the other subterranean" (A, 1:356). In this sense the pyramids function as an ekphrastic image of Alastor itself, which inhabits the "two worlds of life and death" that Earth describes in Prometheus Unbound: "One that which thou beholdest" and the other "underneath the grave, where do inhabit / The Shadows of all forms that think and live" (1.195-98). Thus in the ordinary world the Poet moves from birth to death, but the "phantasmal scene" of this world constantly slips into a more inwardized landscape that seems in search of itself, "searchless" though it is (Alastor, 697, 507). The Gothic likewise has a double architecture that is both abjection and inwardness. For on the one hand, the Narrator's frustration with the Poet's ineffectual abstraction results in a hysterical evocation of a failed alchemy that disfigures his projection of the Poet as a visionary figure (672, 681-83), a negation rather like the Bard breaking his harp in two of the versions of Blake's America. But on the other hand, the poem's obscurity and indeterminacy, its wandering through a "mysterious" and "labyrinthine" nature full of "gulphs," "caves," and recesses (504, 541, 548), seems to conceal within its negativity a searchless "inner meaning," though one that still "possesses only one side ... that of being removed from immediate existence" (A, 1:356). (46)

Finally, in The Triumph of Life Shelley's revisiting of the work of the negative shows itself in the initially Gothic disfiguring of the Shape all Light, the erstwhile figure for the dawn of a new revolutionary era. It would be easy to see the Shape in the Car as punishing the idealism of the earlier Romantic shape, and the poem as a demystification of Prometheus Unbound. For in Prometheus Asia, after her cryptic encounter with Demogorgon, is shown a tableau containing the chariots of the hours, of which two stand out. The first is driven by a "spirit" with a "dreadful countenance," who seems to portend complete anarchy: "ere yon planet has set, the darkness which ascends with me / Shall wrap in lasting night heaven's kingless throne" (PU, II.iv.142, 147-48). The second chariot is guided by a spirit with the "dove-like eyes of hope," although Panthea notes a more sinister aspect to this spirit when she describes it as "Lur[ing] winged insects" to their destruction "through the lampless air" (II.iv.160-62). Selecting the second chariot, Asia is transported to her marriage with Prometheus, while Demogorgon "ascends" with the dreadful spirit to the scene of his apocalyptic overthrow of Jove. The key question of German Idealism, that of what "Spirit" actually is, is thus schematically resolved. The play as a whole similarly conjures away its genealogical relationship to Shelley's Gothic novels, as the Symbolic figures of Zastrozzi and Ginotti are romanticized and sanitized in the form of Prometheus.

But The Triumph returns to this scene of the chariots, unleashing a different hour in which the two spirits can no longer be disentangled. Nevertheless the ensuing disintegration of aesthetic ideology releases an energy as powerful as the beauty of the Shape was lethargic. For the "crew," which "Shelley" had described as "deluded," seem "like atomies to dance / Within a sunbeam" (TL, 184, 444-46). Meanwhile Rousseau "plunge[s]" into the future with a blindness that is the very condition for the deconstructive creativity thrown off by the Car, in whose disaster he invites "Shelley" to participate as "actor or victim" rather than mere "spectator" (305-6). Shelley describes this "restless fermentation" around the phenomenon of "Life" in terms of a Symbolic pre-maturity when, in the opening, he compares the Car to "the young moon," which bears "As a herald of its coming ... / The ghost of her dead mother, whose dim form / Bends in dark ether from her infant's chair" (79-85). In this Gothic unfolding of the tranquillizing simile of the moon, history becomes "a process without a telos or a subject," (47) borne on by something still (to be) born that is vacant of personality. For the dead mother shrouds a chair that may well be empty, like "heaven's kingless throne," since the lines oddly refer to the infant's chair but not the infant itself. Moreover, the dead mother bends "from," not over, the chair, as if brought down by this infant power whose advent is or was expected, but whom we do not actually see.

Yet it is important to note how similes succeed each other, none adequately embodying a phenomenon that has neither "form nor outline." For like the "sun's image" reflected in a well, which is then brought into focus and perceived as the "Shape all light" (345-52), the young moon contains another figure: the dead mother bending from her infant's chair. This composite simile is then displaced by a further likeness, as the slouching mother becomes "the dusky hood and double cape" shrouding a Shape that is now unnaturally old rather than young: "as one whom years deform" (87-90). "Figures ever new" are cast off in the cinematography of the poem (248), which commingles the beautiful, the sublime, and the repellent, thus preserving the possibility of transfiguration within disfiguration. With his more conventional sense of order, the character "Shelley" wants to arrange these figures in time or space so as to discern various phases of the procession: the car at the center, and in front the names of history from Plato to Napoleon, while an anonymous crowd of dancers brings up the rear (101, 134-38). Because for him the core experience is the disenchantment of the Shape, "Shelley" also wants to level the distinction between those who lead the procession and those who follow behind, so as to dismiss the notion that "All but the sacred few" are a "deluded crew"(128, 184). He thus refuses to read closely by distinguishing between "Speed in the van and blindness in the rear" (101). "Shelley" allegorizes a practice of reading "extensively" rather than "intensively." In so doing he constructs what Godwin calls a "general history" that studies "the causes that operate universally upon masses of men," often without "descending so much as to name one of those individuals" involved. General or "universal" history discerns patterns and regularities that "individual" history is concerned to disrupt by focusing on "the varying character of individuals" and the "magnetical" connections that we as readers make with their "subtle peculiarities." (48) But Shelley would rather reduce the names of history to "epitomes" which are the "moths of just history" and "eat out the poetry of it" (DP, 515). Serializing both the leaders and those who follow the Car as simulacra, "Shelley" also discerns no differences among the "mighty captives," let alone "the ribald crowd that followed them" (TL, 135-36). Indeed in the opening section "Shelley" does not care to name these "mighty captives" whom Rousseau proceeds to individualize. He asks himself why "all" is "here amiss" and does not seem to hear the irony when a voice answers "Life!" (178-80). (49)

But the account of the procession is in fact a moving army of differences, metaphors, and metonymies that Rousseau discloses in reading intensively what "Shelley" dismisses as a "perpetual flow" (298). The end of the poem is taken over by Bosch-like scenes, in which the crowd is compared to a "flock of vampire bats," to "chattering" and "restless apes," and "vultures" sitting on the tiaras of "pontiffs." In a return to Alastor, Shelley describes "old anatomies" laughing "from their dead eyes," who "reassume the delegated power, / Arrayed in which those worms did monarchize, / Who made this earth their charnel" (TL, 484-505). But it is worth noting that the manuscript, unlike the reading text we normally see, does not put quotation marks around the lines spoken by individual characters. Thus it is hard to know whether this segment marks Rousseau's renunciation of his idealism, or whether it is spoken by "Shelley," whose desire to flee back to the vales of Har is clear enough, and whose Thel-like abdication the author Shelley calls into question. (50) Perhaps the "disenchantment" of this last segment is that of "Shelley," whose Platonism is a more stoical version of the Romanticism of the beautiful soul. Or perhaps we should not read it as disenchantment at all. Perhaps it is Rousseau who speaks the lines, in which case we should attend to the enthusiasm with which he describes himself as having "plunged" into the "living storm" and the "cold light, whose airs too soon deform" (465-69). After all, lust as the "mighty phantoms of an elder day" include figures as different as Plato and Caesar, Bacon and Constantine (253, 260-87), so too the ribald crowd at the end is metamorphically imaged through a spectrum of different figures: bats and apes, but also "elves / Danc[ing] in a thousand unimagined shapes" (490-91), forms that disclose a strange vitality within "periods of the decay of social life" (DP, 520).

Indeed this last, unrelievedly Gothic segment includes a reference to Dante and is described as "a wonder worthy of his rhyme" (TL, 469-80). While Dante, unlike Socrates and Jesus (134), is not exempt from life, it seems he is introduced with some kind of redemptive intention. But if so, Dante is a kind of placeholder, since what follows is not wondrous in any conventional sense. On the contrary the text describes a "grove" growing "dense with shadows," including "small gnats and flies as thick as mist / On evening marshes," thronging "about the brow / Of lawyers, statesmen, priest and theorist" (508-10). The scene is one of degeneration and entropy, yet harbors a strange life: the life of infusoria and germs that was increasingly preoccupying the sciences. Charles Bonnet, for instance, had extended Leibniz's idea, produced by the discovery of the microscope, of a universe infinitely divisible into new potentialities of life. For Bonnet a germ is a "petit corps organique" with a soul, and like the monad, is physically indestructible; an organism is composed of numerous such germs, containing further germs (or seeds) that may develop in the future. The disintegration of the body releases these germs, which on the death of the person are "disseminated in all the parts of nature" and enter into new combinations. Although Bonnet is more a thinker of plenitude than degeneration, the theory of germs allows us to see an alternative kind of generation in degeneration, (51) which Shelley's poem finds in the way "old anatomies" release "atomies" that are lower forms of life that yet, from another perspective, can "dance" within a "sunbeam" (284, 244-46). Rousseau himself, who comes back to life in what initially seems the vegetable form of an "old root which grew / To strange distortion" (182-83), is an instance of this unbinding that occurs when the "shadows of all forms that think and live" are released from their mortal forms and become simulations of themselves, to be brought forward again from potentiality.

As suggested, Dante is no more than the promise of some future that inheres in "life." For the logic of the scene in the grove is not Dante's serial logic of Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso, but combines all three "in the chaos of a cyclic poem" (DP, 512). The negatively dialectical "rotary motion" of this chaos is figured in the wheel of the triumphal Car and the cyclic form of the poem itself, which returns upon and into itself through its folding of vision within vision, figure within figure. "Rotary motion" is Schelling's figure for the process that Kant, like "Shelley," would rather dismiss as the "abderitic" form of history. In the abderitic, a "perpetually changing upward tendency" alternates with "an equally frequent and profound relapse" in an "eternal rotation." Schelling contests not only Kant's equation of rotation with "stagnation," (52) but also Hegel's desire to see history as a progressive dialectic. In Schelling's revision of this dialectic, the "third," which should be "outside and above all antithesis," cannot be removed from contention, because "each of the three" moments in the dialectic "has an equal right to be that which has being." Thus there is no synthesis that does not negate the right of what resists unification to have being, which means that all syntheses are symbolic resolutions that must be drawn back into an endless process of revolution. (53) In this cyclic "chaos" Shelley can no longer protect "high" art from political corruption as he wished to do in A Defence. He cannot insulate "the form and the splendour of unfaded beauty" from "the secrets of anatomy and corruption" (DP, 531). And he cannot protect literature as the repository of the "beautiful, or generous, or true" from a cultural and political debasement that "eats out the poetry" from history so as to recast both poetry and history as a void that forever craves fresh food (DP, 522, 515, 517).

Instead Shelley, like Yeats, is finally deserted by his circus animals, the names of culture that populate a defense of poetry whose serial construction as a "progress" he had already abandoned halfway through that text. For in the Defence Shelley tries to write a history of "poetry" in its broadest sense, moving from Homer and the literature of Athens, to Dante, Milton, and the Enlightenment (DP, 518-30). However, this history of the relation between the Idea of poetry and its materialization seems to advance and retreat only to promise results again. Moreover, even Dante and Milton, "philosophers of the very loftiest power," deploy "distorted notions of invisible things" that are "enveloped and disguised" in the "creeds" of their time (DP, 515, 526). Even these canonical figures are caught in a disconnection between the Idea and its contingent, cultural distortion that Hegel would call Symbolic. This disconnection discloses the Idea of "poetry" as not yet fully developed, despite Shelley's claim that Milton "conceived the Paradise Lost as a whole before he executed it in portions" (DP, 532). Shelley therefore cuts off his history, claiming that he must "not be betrayed from a defence into a critical history of Poetry," and putting off the issue of poetry in his own time to a "second part" (DP, 528, 535). Here Shelley writes in the vein of a typically Romantic idealism, mirroring Friedrich Schelling's insistence in his lectures on academic study that the historical organization of knowledge in universities is an "obstacle to true knowledge" and is opposed to philosophical or "absolute knowledge." (54)

Yet if Shelley cannot construct the Idea of poetry empirically, either as a history or across a spectrum of genres (poetry, prose, and drama), like other post-Kantian Idealists he also cannot construct it at a transcendental level. For he projects its very inchoateness both Romantically as a "lightning which has yet found no conductor" and Gothically as a "void" which is at once prolific and devouring (DP, 528, 517). So in The Triumph Shelley brings back some of the figures whom he had (en)listed in the defence of poetry: Plato, Dante, Bacon, Voltaire, and most importantly Rousseau. (55) For the character "Shelley" these idols are now reduced to mere "figures" cast on the world's "false and fragile glass" (TL, 246-47). But the author finds a kind of energy in the "catabolic" process of the "breaking-up of shape, the dissolution of functional contexts, [and] the abolition of meaningful location," (56) as a death-drive in culture, a disintegration that allows new possibilities to appear. He lets down his ladder "into the foul rag and bone shop of the heart," (57) and in thus "raking the cinders of a crucible" (TL, 683) he finds a disastrous creativity in this space into which the horrors of early modern culture have been cast off.

University of Western Ontario, Canada


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--. Critique of the Power of Judgment (1790). Edited by Paul Guyer. Translated by Paul Guyer and Eric Matthews. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

--. Essays and Treatises on Moral, Political, and Various Philosophical Subjects by E. Kant. From the German by the Translator of The Principles of Critical Philosophy, John Richardson. 2 vols. London, 1798-99.

--. The Conflict of Faculties (1798). Translated by Mary J. Gregor. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992.

Krell, David Farrell. Contagion: Sexuality, Disease and Death in German Idealism and Romanticism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998.

Kristeva, Julia. "The Adolescent Novel." In Abjection, Melancholia and Love: The Work of Julia Kristeva, edited by John Fletcher and Andrew Benjamin, 8-23. London: Routledge, 1990.

Lovejoy, Arthur O. The Great Chain of Being: A Study in the History of an Idea. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1942.

McGann, Jerome J. The Romantic Ideology: A Critical Investigation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983.

Morrissey, Lee. The Constitution of Literature. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008.

Nancy, Jean-Luc. The Creation of the World or Globalization. Translated by Francois Raffoul and David Pettigrew. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007.

Rajan, Tilottama. Dark Interpreter: The Discourse of Romanticism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1980.

--. "Difficult Freedom: Hegel's Symbolic Art and Schelling's Historiography in Ages of the World (1815)." In Inventions of Imagination, edited by Richard Gray, Nicholas Halmi, et al, 121-40. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2011.

--. "How (Not) To Speak Properly: Writing 'German' Philosophy in Hegel's Aesthetics and History of Philosophy." Clio 33, no. 2 (2004): 119-42.

--. "Phenomenology and Romantic Theory: Hegel and the Subversion of Aesthetics." In Questioning Romanticism, edited by John Beer, 155-78, 298-300. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995.

--. The Supplement of Reading: Figures of Understanding in Romantic Theory and Practice. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990.

--. "Toward a Cultural Idealism: Negativity and Freedom in Hegel and Kant." In Idealism Without Absolutes: Philosophy and Romantic Culture, edited by Tilottama Rajan and Arkady Plotnitsky, 51-72. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2004.

--. Romantic Narrative: Shelley, Hays, Godwin, Wollstonecraft. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010.

Redfield, Marc. The Politics of Aesthetics: Nationalism, Gender, Romanticism. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003.

Schelling, F. W. J. First Outline of a System of the Philosophy of Nature (1799). Translated by Keith R. Peterson. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2004.

--. On University Studies (1803). Translated by E. S. Morgan. Athens: University of Ohio Press, 1966.

--. Philosophical Investigations into the Nature of Human Freedom and Related Matters (1809). Translated by Jeff Love and Johannes Schmidt. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2006.

--. The Ages of the World (1815). Translated by Jason M. Wirth. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000.

--. "On the Nature of Philosophy as Science" (1823). In German Idealist Philosophy, translated by Marcus Bullock, 210-43. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1997.

Segal, Hanna. "Symbolism." In Dream, Phantasy, and Art, 31-48. London and New York: Tavistock/Routledge, 1991.

Shelley, Percy Bysshe. Shelley's Poetry and Prose. Edited by Donald Reiman and Neil Fraistat. Second ed. New York: Norton, 2002.

--. Zastrozzi and St. Irvyne. Edited by Stephen C. Behrendt. Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2002.

Steigerwald, Joan. "Degeneration." Marking Time: Romanticism and Evolution. Edited by Joel Faflak, et al. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, forthcoming.

Yeats, W. B. "The Circus Animals' Desertion." In Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats, 391-92. Second ed. London: Macmillan, 1950.

(1.) For example: "A poet is a nightingale who sits in darkness" (516), "Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world" (517), and "Poetry is indeed something divine" (531). All references to A Defence of Poetry and to Shelley's poetry are to Shelley's Poetry and Prose, second ed., eds. Donald H. Reiman and Neil Fraistat (New York: Norton, 2002). A Defence of Poetry will hereafter be referred to parenthetically as DP, Prometheus Unbound as PU, and The Triumph of Life as TL.

(2.) The first was Zastrozzi (1810). References to this novel as well as to St. Irvyne are from Percy Shelley, Zastrozzi and St. Irvyne, ed. Stephen C. Behrendt (Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2002) and are hereafter cited parenthetically.

(3.) For instance: James Hogg, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970), 39-42; Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "Constancy to an Ideal Object" (1828), in The Complete Poetical Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ed. E. H. Coleridge, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1912; rpt. 1975), 1:455-56; Thomas De Quincey, Suspiria de Profundis, (1845), in Confessions of an English Opium Eater and Other Writings, ed. Aileen Ward (New York: New American Library, 1966), 179-87.

(4.) Jerrold Hogle, Shelley's Process: Radical Transference and the Development of his Major Works (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 29-32, 38. Hogle's subsequent work on the Gothic has of course taken a different view of the genre.

(5.) On the traditional Romantic "symbol" as an epistemology and a way of organizing the world rather than a mere trope see Nicholas Halmi, The Genealogy of the Romantic Symbol (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 1-26. Hegel's unusual association of the Symbolic with the Oriental phase of art derives from Friedrich Creuzer, but where Creuzer glorifies the symbol and understands it in the same way as Goethe (but with an added dimension of the numinous), Hegel sees it as a primitive form. On the reasons why Hegel might have borrowed and distorted Creuzer's use of the term see my essay, "Toward a Cultural Idealism: Negativity and Freedom in Hegel and Kant," Idealism Without Absolutes: Philosophy and Romantic Culture, ed. Tilottama Rajan and Arkady Plotnitsky (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2004), 62-64. At the same time, perverse though Hegel's use of the term "Symbolic" may seem in its context, it is also surprisingly modern. Thus Julia Kristeva in "The Adolescent Novel" sees symbolic activity as "manic" (included in Abjection, Melancholia and Love: The Work of Julia Kristeva, eds. John Fletcher and Andrew Benjamin [London: Routledge, 1990], 11). And the psychoanalytic theorist Hannah Segal approaches the symbol as part of a primitive, oral phase in which "boundaries" between inside and outside of the body and its projections/abjections have not been established ("Symbolism," in Dream, Phantasy, and Art [London and New York: Tavistock/Routledge, 1991], 35, 38, 40).

(6.) Hegel, Aesthetics: Lectures on Fine Art, trans. T. M. Knox (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), 1:76, 354. The Aesthetics will hereafter be referred to parenthetically as A.

(7.) For the use of "physiology" to mean natura naturans, see Joseph Henry Green's 1827 Hunterian lecture ("Lecture One: Introduction to the Natural History of the Birds," included in Richard Owen, The Hunterian Lectures in Comparative Anatomy May and June 1837, ed. Philip Sloan [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 199Z], 307-12). Adrian Desmond describes the uptake of Naturphilosophie in London medical circles in the 1820s in The Politics of Evolution: Morphology, Medicine, and Reform in Radical London (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), 1-24. But the interest in a life force that is both in the human body and in nature is obviously an earlier concept, whose history includes John Hunter's own work in the late eighteenth century.

(8.) My use of this term obviously evokes Paul de Man's "Autobiography as De-Facement" and "Shelley Disfigured" (The Rhetoric of Romanticism [New York: Columbia University Press, 1984], 67-82, 93-124). However, disfiguration is not the same kind of analytic operation that deconstruction is. My use of the term thus tries to restore some of the generative potential of a mutilation of figures whose affect suggests the struggle or "restless fermentation" that Hegel sees in the Symbolic.

(9.) I use "Shelley" in quotation marks to refer to the first-person speaker of the poem, the character Shelley, as distinct from the author.

(10.) For a more extensive discussion of Shelley's Gothic novels themselves, see my Romantic Narrative: Shelley, Godwin, Hays, Wollstonecraft (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010), 46-74.

(11.) See for instance M. H. Abrams, "Structure and Style in the Greater Romantic Lyric," in From Sensibility to Romanticism: Essays Presented to Frederick A. Pottle, eds. Frederick W. Hilles and Harold Bloom (New York: Oxford University Press, 1965), 527-59.

(12.) Jerome J. McGann, The Romantic Ideology: A Critical Investigation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983). On aesthetic ideology see Marc Redfield, The Politics of Aesthetics: Nationalism, Gender, Romanticism (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 24-27.

(13.) William Godwin, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and its Influence on Morals and Happiness (1798), ed. F. E. L. Priestley, 3 Vols. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1946), 2:101.

(14.) Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1781/87), trans. J. M. D. Meiklejohn (rpt.; London: J. M. Dent, 1991), 218-21.

(15.) Immanuel Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment (1790), ed. Paul Guyer, trans. Paul Guyer and Eric Matthews (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 192, 218.

(16.) F. W. J. Schelling, Philosophical Investigations into the Essence of Human Freedom, trans. Jeff Love and Johannes Schmidt (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2006), 31, 76.

(17.) Karl Jaspers, Kant (New York: Harcourt Brace and World, 1957), 47.

(18.) Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 211.

(19.) Unlike Kant, Hegel uses the terms Idea and Concept in the singular.

(20.) Unlike Kant, who clearly distinguishes ideas and concepts, Hegel--one could say almost deliberately--confuses and reverses their relationship, in an attempt to insist that the Idea can be fully realized and made real, even though it is then no longer the Idea. On this point see Rajan, "Towards a Cultural Idealism," 56-60.

(21.) Schelling, Philosophical Investigations into the Essence of Human Freedom, 31, 62.

(22.) For elaboration of this point see my "Difficult Freedom: Hegel's Symbolic Art and Schelling's Historiography in Ages of the World (1815)," in Inventions of Imagination, ed. Richard Gray (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2011), 121-40.

(23.) F. W. J. Schelling, First Outline of a System of the Philosophy of Nature (1799), trans. Keith R. Peterson (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2004), 5.

(24.) F. W. J. Schelling, Ages of the World (1815), trans. Jason M. Wirth (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000), 6, 83. David Farrell Krell's commentary on The First Outline is seminal in complicating the concept of inhibition in the earlier text (Contagion: Sexuality, Disease and Death in German Idealism and Romanticism [Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998], 90-116).

(25.) Schelling, First Outline, 43, 53, 39. It is not necessary to point out that in both English and German the word genre or Gattung crosses between biology and aesthetics.

(26.) Schelling, First Outline, 35, 41, 46.

(27.) Schelling, First Outline, 39, 52.

(28.) Schelling, First Outline, 39.

(29.) For a more detailed working through of the relation between Symbolic and Romantic in Hegel, see my essays "Towards a Cultural Idealism" (51-72), and "Phenomenology and Romantic Theory: Hegel and the Subversion of Aesthetics," in Questioning Romanticism, ed. John Beer (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995), 155-78. For the way the problem of art (and specifically Symbolic art) returns even in philosophy, see my essay "How (Not) To Speak Properly: Writing 'German' Philosophy in Hegel's Aesthetics and History of Philosophy," Clio 33:2 (2004), 119-42.

(30.) Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (New York: Vintage, 1973), 387.

(31.) G. W. F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. A. V. Miller (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), 406-7.

(32.) Jacques Derrida, Negotiations: Interventions and Interviews, 1971-2002, ed. and trans. Elizabeth Rottenberg (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002), 242.

(33.) See the Preface to The Phenomenology of Spirit: "The disparity which exists in consciousness between the T and the substance which is its object is the distinction between them, the negative in general" (21).

(34.) Habermas, "Ernst Bloch: A Marxist Schelling," Philosophical-Political Profiles (1971), trans. Frederick G. Lawrence (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1985), 71.

(35.) Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1981), 77. Jameson uses "imaginary" and "symbolic" resolution somewhat interchangeably (e.g. 77, 80, 252). But the terms do refer to different aspects of the Lacanian triad of the Imaginary, Symbolic, and Real. A symbolic resolution is a false resolution of contradictions imposed by the "Symbolic" order of the social. An imaginary resolution, by contrast, would be a fantasized resolution such as the union of Prometheus and Asia in Prometheus Unbound. In "Imaginary and Symbolic in Lacan" (1977) Jameson does in fact clarify the difference between the two terms by quoting Edmond Ortigues: "The same term may be considered imaginary if taken absolutely and symbolic if taken as a differential value of other terms that limit it reciprocally" (The Ideologies of Theory: Essays 1971-1986, 2 vols. [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988], 1:100).

(36.) G. W. F. Hegel, The Philosophy of History, trans. J. Sibree (New York: Dover, 1956), 26 ff.

(37.) Andre Green, The Work of the Negative, trans. Andrew Weller (London: Free Association Books, 1999), 45, 71, 261.

(38.) David Carroll, Paraesthetics: Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard (New York: Methuen, 1987), 29, 39.

(39.) Kant, Essays and Treatises on Moral, Political, and Various Philosophical Subjects by E. Kant, From the German by the Translator of The Principles of Critical Philosophy, John Richardson, 2 vols. (London, 1798-99).

(40.) For a discussion of the draft manuscript which suggests that in it Shelley was deliberately unbinding his text rather than just writing in a fourth act conceived later in whatever space was left, see my discussion in The Supplement of Reading: Figures of Understanding in Romantic Theory and Practice (Ithaca: Corner University Press, 1990), 319-21.

(41.) Robert Browning, "An Essay on Percy Bysshe Shelley" (1852), in Peacock's Four Ages of Poetry, Shelley's Defence of Poetry, Browning's Essay on Shelley, ed. H. F. B. Brett-Smith (Oxford: Blackwell, 1921/1953), 63-67, 82. For a discussion of Alastor as autonarration see Rajan, Romantic Narrative, 3-4, 93-95.

(42.) Blanchot, "Literature and the Right to Death," The Gaze of Orpheus, trans. Lydia Davis (Barrytown, N.Y.: Station Hill Press, 1981), 46-48; "The Essential Solitude," The Gaze of Orpheus, 63-78.

(43.) Jean-Luc Nancy, The Creation of the World or Globalization, trans. Francois Raffoul and David Pettigrew (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007), 33.

(44.) Nancy, Creation of the World, 33.

(45.) Hogle, "'Frankenstein' as Neo-gothic: From the Ghost of the Counterfeit to the Monster of Abjection," in Romanticism, History, and the Possibilities of Genre: Re-forming Literature, 1789-1837, eds. Tilottama Rajan and Julia Wright (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 178.

(46.) Derrida's famous essay "The Pit and the Pyramid: Introduction to Hegel's Semiology" is perhaps of more relevance to Alastor than to my reading of Hegel. For Derrida, whose deconstruction of Hegel assumes a strong intention on the latter's part to resist rather than admit deconstruction, Hegel represents "the fulfilment of metaphysics." Semiologically speaking, the agent for this fulfilment is the sign, which is language as no more than a "transition ... [the] reference of one presence to another," and which, being an "incarnation," belongs to "the third moment" of the philosophy of Spirit, "when the idea comes back to itself." The symbol, by contrast, resists such transparency, since it is not arbitrary but involves a "mimetic or analogical participation" which, we could add, Hanna Segal sees in psychoanalytic terms as "oral" (see n. 5 above). The symbol thus has a certain density and obscurity to it (Margins of Philosophy, trans. Alan Bass [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982], 73, 71, 82, 74, 84). Derrida at least understands the Hegelian symbol more on its own terms than does de Man, who manufactures contradictions in Hegel by conflating the discussion of the sign in the Encyclopedia (where the word symbol scarcely occurs), with the section on the Symbolic in the Aesthetics (which is not about the sign), and then finally by assuming that Hegel's understanding of the symbol was the conventional one (see n. 5 above) but that a "personal inadequacy" prevented him from being consistent (de Man, "Sign and Symbol in Hegel's Aesthetics," Aesthetic Ideology [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996], 93). On de Man's misreading of Hegel see also Rodolphe Gasche, The Wild Card of Reading: On Paul de Man (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998), 58-66.

(47.) Louis Althusser, Reponse a John Lewis (Paris: Maspero, 1973), 91-98.

(48.) William Godwin, of "History and Romance" [1797], in Godwin, Caleb Williams, eds. Gary Handwerk and A. A. Markley (Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2000), 453-58. The distinction between extensive and intensive reading is made by Roll Engelsing as part of a book history argument about the shift in reading practices produced by the explosion of print culture after roughly 1750. I borrow it from Lee Morrissey, who adapts it to contrast an intensive reading born of the political contention of the Civil War, with extensive reading as a strategy developed to "quell dissent and depoliticize politics." Morrissey also links the distinction to de Man's distinction between tropological and grammatical reading, or one could say reading for difference and reading for a logic that produces consent to a pattern (The Constitution of Literature [Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008], 7-10).

(49.) For more detailed discussions of The Triumph of Life, see Tilottama Rajan, Dark Interpreter: The Discourse of Romanticism (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1980), 59-71. See also my Supplement of Reading, which includes a sustained critique of Paul de Man's important essay "Shelley Disfigured" (323-49). In both books my argument is anchored in distinguishing "Shelley's" aloofness in the face of life from Rousseau's existentialism and commitment to "life" in all its complexity.

(50.) The original manuscript does not contain quotation marks; they were added by Mary Shelley so as to create a reading text, and retained by Donald H. Reiman with some slight alterations that have unscrutinized consequences. While it is sometimes clear who speaks the lines, we do not always know whether to attribute particular lines to Rousseau or to "Shelley," or where the breaks between Rousseau's and "Shelley's" lines occur, which in turn can significantly alter how we interpret the lines. For some of the consequences of the added punctuation, see my Supplement of Reading, 332-35, 346-48. As regards the lines in question, Reiman's reading text attributes everything after line 300 to Rousseau. But while my argument here is purely speculative, it is also possible to argue that "Shelley" again becomes the speaker after line 469 (the description of Dante) or after line 480. In general, as I suggest, "the manuscript's unfinished status," and particularly its omission of quotation marks, "allows it to inhabit the space of its own differences" (344).

(51.) Charles Bonnet, La palingenesie philosophique, ou Idees sur l"etat passe et sur l'etat futur des etres vivans (Paris, 1770), 204-7. On Bonnet, see also Arthur Lovejoy, The Great Chain of Being: A Study in the History of an Idea (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1942), 230-33, 283. On the increasing interest of the life sciences in degeneration as a form of generation, see Joan Steigerwald, "Degeneration," in Marking Time: Romanticism and Evolution, ed. Joel Faflak, et al. (forthcoming, University of Toronto Press).

(52.) Kant, The Conflict of the Faculties (1798), trans. Mary J. Gregor (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1979), 145.

(53.) Schelling, Ages of the World, 36, 19.

(54.) F. W. J. Schelling, On University Studies, trans. E. S. Morgan, ed. Norbert Guterman (Athens: University of Ohio Press, 1966), 20-21, 27, 81, 104.

(55.) Plato, Bacon, Voltaire, Rousseau, and Dante occur in both the Defence and The Triumph of Life. Jesus Christ and Socrates in the Defence (518, 524) are referred to in The Triumph only as "they of Athens and Jerusalem" (134), and may avoid inclusion in the triumphal procession, though the reference brings them into contiguity with it. Of course Socrates, unlike his disciple Plato, left no writings. Interestingly in Alastor Athens and Jerusalem are not exempt from the urban ruin through which the Poet passes (109-10). Milton, an important name in the Defence (526-27), is not in The Triumph, but interestingly Kant, with whom Shelley is not thought to be familiar, is (236). There are, of course, a number of historical figures in The Triumph who are not in the Defence, and a number of writers who are not in The Triumph, although in the former Shelley does extend the provenance of poetry to "laws," "civil society," and "institutions" (DP, 512, 523).

(56.) Rudolf Arnheim, Entropy and Art: An Essay on Disorder and Order (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971), 12, 28-29.

(57.) W. B. Yeats, "The Circus Animals' Desertion," in Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats, second ed. (London: Macmillan, 1950), 391-92.
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Title Annotation:Percy Bysshe Shelley & Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Author:Rajan, Tilottama
Publication:Studies in Romanticism
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Mar 22, 2013
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