This is a detailed and innovative study of the use by the poet Shelley, conventionally regarded as an atheist, of ideas and imagery from the Scriptures in expressing his world view.
Assessing Shelley's poetic theory and practice in relation to the Gnostic heresies of the early church period and the Enlightenment critiques of Scripture, the book shows the poet's method of biblical interpretation to be heterodox and revisionist. Shelley's early appropriation of Scriptural elements is seen to be based on the Bible's ethical content and its ideals of the kingdom of heaven, while in the period 1818-1820 he is a prophet in exile, an English expatriate preoccupied with the nature of the mind (or self) and its transformation. The final part of the study, which looks at Shelley's last two years, focuses on the notion of an increasingly spiritualized self who realizes that his kingdom is 'not of this world'. A detailed appendix sets out a large number of definite or possible Biblical allusions in Shelley's poetry.
Shelley and Scripture draws on a deep knowledge of the Bible, and of the various currents in the history of Biblical exegesis and christian typology, to present a timely re-evaluation of the influence on Shelley of the language and traditions of Christianity.
`a dedicated academic analysis of the Romantic poet's close encounters of the biblical kind. Shelley and Scripture is both richly comprehensive and critically ground-breaking. Bryan Shelley's book without doubt enhance significantly our sense of the richness of allusion and cultural influence within Shelley's work. ...a stance that carefully balances the contextual with the literary.'
The Byron Journal
`The strengths of this book emerge from its carefully discriminating readings. ... What we are presented with ... is a series of detailed and subtle readings of works which leave intact both the strength of Shelley's refusal of Christianity and his reworking of biblical language in order to express that refusal. ... the book is written with care and a welcome economy. ... Through his impressive knowledge of the Bible and of Christian traditions, Bryan
Shelley seeks to lend rigour to the debate about Shelley's engagement with religious ideas and language. Undoubtedly we are significantly the richer for the many local insights he provides in this book.'
British Association for Romantic Studies Bulletin and Review, issue no.12, June 1997
`While much has previously been written about Shelley's religious interests and uses of biblical material, this book provides a uniquely condensed and detailed treatment of the topic, and its appendix offers a very helpful guide to biblical references in Shelley's poetry.'
Journal of the American Academy of Religion