Romanticism, Shelley, and Technologies of Reference
Linda Carol Brigham
Institution: UNIVERSITY OF
; 0117 MARYLAND COLLEGE PARK
Advisor: Neil Fraistat
Source: DAI, 53, no. 04A, (1991): 1164
"Revolutionary Icons" recasts the relationship of textuality to politics by identifying the signifying strategies in selected Romantic works, principally those of Percy Bysshe Shelley. I bring the reference-based sign system of turn-of-the-century American philosopher C. S. Peirce together with the historico-critical perspective of French semiotic post-structuralist Jean Baudrillard to analyze what I call "technologies of reference" in Romantic texts, ways of articulating how these works relate words to things. Both intellectually and politically, what we call "Romanticism" is characterized by a heightened concern with the life of signs, and specifically with the connection of language to the trauma of revolution and reaction. Shelley, the most consistently radical of the canonical English Romantic poets, meditated profoundly on the rhetorical potential of poetic language to both effect Institution:al reform and contain the violence which seemed so inseparably a part of change.
Peirce's semiotics stems from his triadic typology of signs, a classification of signs by the ways in which they refer to things. Peirce's sign typology, I claim here, may be adapted to literary language so that we can characterize a text in terms of its predominant "technology of reference." Baudrillard, in turn, historicizes types of reference and draws out the political implications inherent in a given reference technology. I employ both of these sign theorists to demonstrate that the British Romantic movement is split according to technology of reference; Wordsworth and Coleridge employ one technology, Shelley another. This characterization of these poets makes sense of their political sympathies and antipathies, and demonstrates that the concept of reference technology opens up a powerful new way to connect language and praxis.
Descriptor: LITERATURE, ENGLISH
Accession No: AAG9222661