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Philosophy In The Life Of Percy Shelley

1690 words - 7 pages

Philosophy in the Life of Percy Shelley

Thesis: There was no end to the apparent contradictions of personal philosophy versus popular culture, and what Shelley actually accomplished in his short life. Shelley was cognoscente of this contradiction, as can be seen in his Preface to The Revolt of Islam, and it continually shadowed his career.

The Romantic writers of the late 1700s and the early 1800s enjoyed a freedom in writing that is reminiscent of the freedom of some of the great Greek writers. Like the Greeks more than one thousand years earlier, the Romantic writers were able to enjoy such professions in the humanities due to the influx of technology in their respective societies. With the rise of the Greek Polis came efficiency in farming, shared labor, and specialized manufacturing on a more primitive scale. These innovations were key to the origin of philosophical writing for never before had so many humans had the luxury of time for contemplating life. The medical and mechanical advances, and increased importance of education for all classes in England during the 19th century replicated this revolution in many ways. England was developing into a network of urban areas. Wealthy business owners were able to support young poets and artist in their artistic endeavors. Without the support of the urban society, poets such as Shelley would have lived a life of labor and non-published thoughts of life. The irony occurs in that Romanic Poets such as Percy Shelley, who enjoyed the luxuries of modern life, would come to distain the very evolutionary events of society which enabled the time and freedom to contemplate. There was no end to the apparent contradictions of personal philosophy versus popular culture, and what Shelley actually accomplished in his short life. Shelley was cognoscente of this contradiction, as can be seen in his Preface to The Revolt of Islam, and it continually shadowed his career.
I aspire to be something better. The circumstances of my accidental
education have been favorable to this ambition.
An early inspiration to Shelley's thoughts was William Godwin. The effects of Godwin's writings upon Shelley would extend beyond his high school years. The book Political Justice entranced Shelley. The idea of a world dominated by philosophy rather than religion can be seen in Shelley's own ideals of Millennialism. Shelley accepted enthusiastically Godwin's promotion of free love instead of the cursed institution of marriage.
Shelley's own family did not understand him from the beginning. Shelley had expected an inheritance from his father, but upon Shelley's expulsion from Oxford his father disinherited him. Shelley's mother discouraged his reading of books as well as she felt that the reading added to his madness (Karunaratne, 29). Shelly's grandfather did provide a sum of money for him, but Shelley had an awkward appreciation for the money. Shelley, though he had no real income, would share...

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