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Durham University

Department of English Studies

Event Archive

This is an archive of past events within the Department of English Studies. Please see our current events for forthcoming activities.

Some of our public events are recorded and are available as podcasts via our Research English At Durham blog.

Inventions of the Text

Earth of Eternity: Shelley and Existence

14th November 2019, 17:30 to 19:00, Seminar Room, Hallgarth House, Dr. Madeleine Callaghan (University of Sheffield)

An Inventions of the Text seminar.

Eternity, in its philosophical and religious appearances, might seem at odds with Shelley’s professed atheism; yet Shelley never lost sight of it, as separate from Christian meanings as he could manage, but nevertheless frequently borrowing its most characteristic descriptions. His poetry and prose reveal his attempt to write eternity rather than his confidence in achieving it. Though aiming at exploration of ‘previously uncharted realms’ he refuses any denial of fact or feigning of certainty. Shelley does not lay claim to eternity without testing its possibilities but more importantly, he acknowledges the existence of material reality even as he cannot bow to its power. Eternity is something that we crave and can sense in out mortal lives, but for Shelley, this is a particularly vexed desire in the absence of any divine architect. Faced with previous sages’ ‘records of their vain endeavour’ (‘Hymn to Intellectual Beauty’, 3. 28), Shelley explores new possibilities of imagining the eternal, attempting to go beyond those thinkers in an audacious attempt to write ‘the unascended heaven’ (Prometheus Unbound, 3. 2. 203).

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Research in English At Durham (READ) blog showcasing the the literary research emerging from the Department of English Studies


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