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Hagopian, J.V. (1955). A Psychological Approach to Shelley's Poetry. Am. Imago, 12(1):25-45.

(1955). American Imago, 12(1):25-45

A Psychological Approach to Shelley's Poetry

John V. Hagopian

Defining the literary critics' proper boundaries has long been the concern of many whom Plato would have called those who are fourth removed from Beauty — the critics of the critics; and certainly the current quantity of publications on literary criticism is testimony to the fact that the boundary lines are, perhaps, more uncertain today than they have ever been, especially in the case of a critic who removes himself to another discipline such as sociology or psychology to view what is going on in literature. However, as William Barrett has recognized, by mid-century it was a

significant fact that the modern consciousness had at last become conscious of itself in literature, and this consciousness demanded that the literary work be assimilated in relation to a great many and complicated interests — anthropology, psychology, sociology, and various possibilities of religious belief. (1)

This paper, then, shall make no apology for approaching the poetry of Shelley from the point of view of twentieth century psychology, except to say that, of course, no presumption is made that this is the only significant or even the most valuable approach to Shelley's or any one else's literary work. It seems, however, that an investigation of the relationship between a poet's personality and his poetry can no longer ignore the psychological discoveries made by Sigmund Freud and his followers since The Interpretation of Dreams was published in 1900. As the late Professor Mat-thiessen said, “It is no longer meaningful to present Shelley's career without a firm and bold penetration into some of the psychological problems that it contains.”

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