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Title:Geological bodies: Form and process in romantic poetry and geology
Author(s):Paterson, Alexandra
Director of Research:Underwood, Ted
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Underwood, Ted
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Markley, Robert; Nazar, Hina; Wood, Gillen D
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):eighteenth century
nineteenth century
John Keats
Charlotte Smith
Percy Bysshe Shelley
James Hutton
Abstract:“Geological Bodies: Form and Process in Romantic Poetry and Geology” considers the impact of geological discoveries on Romantic subjectivity. Specifically, it examines Romantic narratives of the self in the context of geological discoveries that called attention to humans’ connection to the earth’s processes through death and decay. It argues that the poetry of the period confronted contemporary anxieties about mortality and human experience by dramatizing the difficulty of situating oneself in relation to an unstable earth. The new science of geology, particularly as exemplified by James Hutton’s uniformitarian theory, demonstrated not only a much longer earth history than previously recognized, but also an earth that was in continual motion. This had important implications for late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century attitudes toward the relationship between humans and the landscape they inhabited. While Romantic scholarship has long recognized the role of place and memory in poetic subjectivity, my project recasts this trope, and I contend that several poets’ characterizations of a geologically transforming landscape actually destabilized traditional notions of place, and alongside them, the notion of the poet as a rooted subject. Reading poetry by Charlotte Smith, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and William Wordsworth I reveal the cultural entanglements among geology, poetry, and the human body and its history. Putting geological and poetic forms into conversation with one another, I also argue that the Romantic fragment was particularly suited to exploring geological questions because it is a poetic form that embodies the notion of being in process.
Issue Date:2019-10-17
Rights Information:Copyright 2019 Alexandra Paterson
Date Available in IDEALS:2020-03-02
Date Deposited:2019-12

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