Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Lecture 2, Semester 2 - Raw Notes


The creatures of Prometheus (1801)

* 'Bringer of fire' - Stole fire from the gods to give to mankind
* The myths surrounding Prometheus have an influential force
* Prometheus punished for his act. Chained to rock, mountain. Vulture tore away at his liver.
* The 'Bringer of fire', the creation of mankind
* The renewal of humanity

Prometheus adopted as a god of Romanticism. See Beethoven, the creatures of Prometheus.

Lord Byron, 'Prometheus' - 1816
Mary Shelley, 'Frankenstein' - 1818
Percy Shelley, 'Prometheus Unbound' - 1820 - Prometheus signifying freedom

Romanticism - A general Euro-American movement arising out of the late 18th / early 19th centuries ('Romantic in the sense of its own self differentation')

Prometheus - The champion of the oppressed kind. A god who embodies the spirit of 'liberty, egality, fraternity' from the French Revolution

See Percy Shelley, letter to Lord Byron (1816): "The French Revolution is the master theme of the epoch in which we live"

(( "Ozymandias" - or Percy Shelley's Promethianism ))

Shelley's 'Promethean' revolutionary spirit infuses his 1818 sonnet "Ozymandias" - Also known as Rameses II
This was composed following a visit to the British Museum - Inspiration at work

The sonnet form is most often used to elevate and Shelley plays on the idea of "empires built on sand". Also suggests the subversive role of the arist in the face of tyranny. Shelley's sonnet articulates a critique of imperial power in the name of revolutionary art.

Via its account of Egyptian power, the sonnet alludes to the current imperial power of the British Empire. - Remember statue of Rameses 2nd is in the British Museum! Thus, Shelley's poem suggests the existence of a certain museum - imperial complex. Its anti-tyrannical stance seems to be addressed more towards British than Egyptian forms of power in 1818.

 Links to more recent events - Mubarak's downfall. Suggests Prometheanism is alive today in Egypt.

(( Asthetic Promethianism ))

Prometheus myth inspires other writers. E.g. John Keats and his 'Ode on a Grecian Urn' - 1820
Keats ode is a museum-poem, much like Shelley's Ozymandias

'Ode on a Grecian Urn'

 * Signifies an element of self-conscious artifice in the artistic act of creation
 * An opportunity for Keats to demonstrate poetic skills in the process of celebrating the very artistry of the Grecian Urn
* Opening lines - "Highly wrought"

Personification - The Urn as a bride. Alternating line length. Signifier of creativity.

The Urn consecrates art itself as a supreme value. E.g. Urn as an art object outlasting humanity. Keats shapes ode in such a way as to end with an absolute affirmation, put into the mouth of the personified urn. The ode manifests a typical romantic protest at a certain devaluation of art in the industrial capitalism of the day.

Raymond Williams / Betrand Russell - Influential commentaries on the meaning of Romanticism.

According to Russell - Kant switches from aesthetic Promethianism to political Promethianism.

Lord Byron's view of Prometheus, 1816 - "Thou art a symbole and a sign / To mortals of their fate and force"


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