Shelley and Vitality reassesses Percy Shelley's engagement with early nineteenth-century science and medicine, specifically his knowledge and use of theories on the nature of life presented in the debate between surgeons John Abernethy and William Lawrence. Sharon Ruston offers new biographical information to link Shelley to a medical circle and explores the ways in which Shelley exploits the language and ideas of vitality. Major canonical works are reconsidered to address Shelley's politicised understanding of contemporary scientific discourse.
SHARON RUSTON was appointed as Lecturer in English Literature to the University of Wales, Bangor in 2000. She has previously published articles in the journal Romanticism, and has edited a collection of essays, The Anxiety and Influence of the British Romantics.
Acknowledgements List of Abbreviations Cited Introduction: A New Dawn What is Life? The Vitality Debate Materialism and Atheism PART 1: THE VITALITY DEBATE, 1814-19 Vitality and Radical Scientists Humphry Davy and Romantic Scientist Abernethy and Lawrence After 1819 PART 2: SHELLEY'S KNOWLEDGE OF THE 'SCIENCE OF LIFE' 1811 Shelley and Bart's Lawrence and the Bracknell Circle Shelley's Notes on Davy PART 3: THE POLITICAL BODY: PROMETHEUS UNBOUND The Furies and Animal Life Electricity as Life Earth as a Living Being Utopian New Life PART 4: 'THE PAINTED VEIL': DEFINING LIFE Sensibility and the Figure of the Poet Mutability The Painted Veil Materialism PART 5: 'THE POETRY OF LIFE' Life Cycles Vitally Metaphorical Posthumous Life Beginnings and Endings Conclusion Notes Bibliography Index