"Her cradle, and his sepulchre": The Shelleys' Anxiety of Creation and Identity

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Title: "Her cradle, and his sepulchre": The Shelleys' Anxiety of Creation and Identity
Author: Bolte, Caralyn Marie
Advisors: Dr. John Morillo, Committee Chair
Abstract: Both Percy Shelley and Mary Wollestonecraft Shelley asserted their belief in the nature of literature to transcend conscious thoughts and to operate as a dream state, manifesting unconscious fears and desires. By analyzing two primary works by the Shelleys as dreams, and applying Freud's theories of dream interpretation and the unconscious, this thesis reveals how these works demonstrate a shared unconscious anxiety about the transformative nature of creation and its power to establish or destroy identity. In Alastor, Percy Shelley manifests his anxiety about his relationship with artistic creation through his treatment of gender, most especially in his description of and interaction with the veiled maid. Alastor demonstrates Shelley's conflicting desire both to unite with the powerful creative force and to reject it in order to maintain his own socially constructed role as male Romantic Poet. In Frankenstein, Mary Shelley both responds to and expands upon the thematic focus established by Percy Shelley in Alastor. Focusing on the power of physical creation to redefine a woman's identity, Mary Shelley manifests her anxiety about the possibility of integrating the dueling aspects of her own identity, mother and author, into one cohesive identity. Percy examines how his desire for pure poetic expression affects his role within a masculine construct, while Mary interrogates her own beliefs about integrating the role of mother and author into one cohesive identity in a world that privileges and requires motherhood. Their creation of marginalized, exiled characters in the figures of the wandering poet, who chooses to shun society, and the monster, who is shunned by a society he deeply desires to be a part of, indicates their own fear of the consequences of societal rejection.
Date: 2004-05-31
Degree: MA
Discipline: English
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/2063

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