Shelley and His Readers: Beyond Paranoid Politics


In Shelley and His Readers, the first full-length critical analysis of the dialogue between Shelley's poetry and its contemporary reviewers, Kim Wheatley argues that Shelley's idealism can be recovered through the study of its reception. Incorporating extensive research in major early-nineteenth-century British periodicals, Wheatley integrates a reception-based methodology with careful textual analysis to demonstrate that the contemporary reception of Shelley's work registers the immediate impact of the poet's increasingly idealistic passion for reforming the world.

Wheatley examines Shelley's poetry within the context of Romantic-era "paranoid politics, " a heightened language of defensiveness and persecution incorporating Miltonic and apocalyptic imagery that paints adversaries as Satanic rebels against the orthodoxy. A simultaneously empowering and disabling dynamic, the paranoid style embodies a preoccupation with the efficacy of the printed word, thus singling out radical writers such as Shelley for personal attacks.


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