The main objective of this dissertation is to illuminate the type of knowledge and how it is learned through poetry from Shelley’s viewpoint. Furthermore, the study argues that unless Shelleyean notion of poetry in the light of his definition of imagination is taken into account, his intended knowledge cannot be comprehended since imagination, as an intrinsic trait of individuals, shapes the mind and fashions human thoughts. For Shelley, imagination acts as a dynamic and productive force. He adds that once imagination gets involved in a reciprocal relationship with natural surroundings, poetry is made and then knowledge comes into existence.
Romantic literature (1785-1830) pertains to an alteration from reason and intellect to imagination and emotion. It expresses a great passion for nature and rustic life. Percy Bysshe Shelley strongly held that imagination serves as an unbounded natural endowment which can yield knowledge. He, however, repudiated the absolute religious truth manifested in God or any Divine Being. He considered imagination as the best measure for divinity as well as mental creativity. He directed imagination at poetic path claiming that poetry, which is the product of a highly imaginative mind, has this potential to reach truth. What he means by truth is the point of satisfaction and it is relative.
Having probed into the majority of Shelley’s works and particularly his poetry, the first thing I found out was that although he was an adherent of Platonism, he finally turned away from a number of Platonic principles and refashioned some of them finally developing his own poetic philosophy as for God, creation, truth and poetry. The second finding of this dissertation is that Shelley came up with a totally different definition of poetry which has almost nothing to do with its traditional definitions. The third finding deals with the fact that believing in God itself is in contrast with the imagination since the former hinders the mind from speculating further; however, the latter paves the way for and inspires the mind to discover the unknown territories. Finally, the fourth discovery is in a certain degree tied with the third one which is that the sublime doesn’t symbolize God unlike some philosophers who alleged otherwise prior to Shelley; it is a dormant power in nature and the driving force of which is human imagination expressed in poetry. It is imagination that sets the sublime into motion. What is more, imagination does not necessarily give birth to something pleasant and amiable, rather at times it is blended with nasty and undesirable feelings as well.
Last but not least, I argue that Shelley’s interest in politics was also immensely influenced by his overpowering imagination as it can be inferred from his political poems that call the public for extending the scope of their imagination to visualize an ideal society and future. Having said that, in the light of Shelleyean imagination as the main argument of this study, I carried out a critical reading of his canonical works in general and his poetry in particular so as to find out how poetry can provide knowledge.
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