Percy Shelley and the tragedies of Lacanian psychoanalysis

Ben Hewitt

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This essay offers some new perspectives on affinities between the writing and thought of Percy Shelley and Jacques Lacan, focusing on aspects of Lacanian psychoanalysis sometimes identified as “tragic”: especially its notions of the divided subject, and of that subject’s alienation by language. It first explores parallels between these notions and Shelley’s representations of language in "Julian and Maddalo". Developing this, by engaging with deconstructive and psychoanalytic approaches to history and language in “The Triumph of Life,” it then highlights how Shelley and Lacan each seem to endorse a similar pessimism, a tragic perspective on our efforts to achieve self-understanding, and on human knowledge and potential more widely. Drawing on Fredric Jameson’s reflections on Marxism and psychoanalysis, and on his interpretation of Lacan’s concept of the “Real,” the essay then concludes by bringing Shelley and Lacan into a more positive, politically energizing encounter with one another, via a reading of "Prometheus Unbound".
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)787-803
JournalEuropean Romantic Review
Issue number6
Early online date16 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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