William D. Melaney
Shelley, Hermeneutics and Poetics: Metaphor as Translation
Percy Bysshe Shelley’s work in the f eld of poetics is a memorable rejoinder to Enlightenment historicism, just as it provides a theoretical basis for reading his own poetry in terms of a hermeneutical approach to knowledge. However, while rich in suggestions concerning how Shelley’s work might be read, the critical tradition in general has tended to neglect hermeneutics in favor of either formal or text-specific approaches. What this paper seeks to explore instead is the hermeneutical signifi cance of Shelley’s conception of poetics. The hermeneutical approach will be used to explain how Shelley conceives of language as a process whereby meaning itself is derived from the metaphorical nature of verbal experience. Accordingly, this paper makes three related claims: first, Shelley’s reflections on the origins of language, as most strongly presented in Defense of Poetry, assigns metaphor a role that is inseparable from the problem of translation, broadly conceived; second, Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound demonstrates on a figurative level how the
human imagination forms the bridge (or translates) between diverse mental faculties; finally, the ‘theory of metaphor’ that Shelley elaborates evokes a view of language that can be examined through a reader-response approach to the hermeneutical tradition. Th is final claim will allow us to demonstrate how a phenomenology of reading employs an intertextual approach to literature that is responsive to temporal claims.