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Beautiful Sanctuaries in Nineteenth- and Early-Twentieth-Century European Literature

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Hugo Walter

This book is a collection of wonderful and thoughtful essays that explore the theme of beautiful sanctuaries in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century European literature. The book focuses especially on selected works by Percy Shelley, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Henrik Ibsen, and James Hilton. These sanctuaries of light, natural beauty, and tranquility comfort, nurture, and soothe the heart, mind, and soul of the individual, and inspire creative expression.

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Chapter 1 Percy Shelley 29

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Percy Shelley In this essay I will examine Shelley’s quest in his poems and essays to confront and transcend mortality, which is intimately connected to his desire to create and participate in a sanctuary of light. One might even claim that the quest to confront and vanquish mortality is motivated by an inclination to nurture and sustain sanctuaries of light. This quest begins with a strong awareness of mortality in poems such as “Mutability” and “Ozymandias,” an awareness which is tempered by the conviction in the poet’s capacity to appreciate epiphanic moments which may counter mortality as in “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty” or “Lines written among the Euganean Hills.” “Mont Blanc” initiates a new dimension in the quest for a transcendence of mortality by emphasizing the poet’s awareness of his creative vitality which in a sense creates the world around him and gives it meaning. This dimension culminates in the strategy of the transformational capacity of the self in “Ode to the West Wind,” “Song of Apollo” (“Hymn of Apollo”), and “The Cloud” where Shelley’s persona assumes the role, literally and symbolically, of the aspect of nature or mythological existence he is describing. Whereas Wordsworth tries to challenge mortality by creating an orphically hermetic spatiality, Shelley counters mortality with a quest for the transformational moment—this is a particular moment or a series of moments when the “I” assumes different roles or shapes of timeless vitality, when the “I” forms himself anew. The transformational moment derives its power from a...

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