The Transcendental: Deleuze, P. B. Shelley, and the Freedom of Immobility

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This essay highlights the relevance of Deleuze for Romanticists and Romanticism by linking Deleuze's philosophy to a central Romantic-era philosopher, Immanuel Kant, and to one of the more philosophical of the British Romantic poets, Percy Shelley. Deleuze's method of "transcendental deduction" bears on the Kantianism with which scholars of Romanticism are already familiar, but it also highlights a conception of rhythm that is assumed, but not made explicit, in Kant's theory of aesthetic judgment. Deleuze's reading of the role of rhythm in Kant can, in turn, help us to better understand the roles of passivity and temporality in Percy Shelley's writings. Focusing on Shelley's poem “Mont Blanc," Mitchell argues that Deleuze's discussion of the role of rhythm in Kant's philosophy helps us to understand how Shelley connects the thematic content of his poem—namely, the experience of being in the presence of the mountain—with the rhythmic structure of the poem itself. Where in his earlier writings Shelley had implied that poetry produced moral improvement by inculcating in readers a sense of being part of an animated whole, "Mont Blanc" instead employs rhyme to suspend the animation of his readers, which in turn allows readers and listeners to isolate their capacities for sensation.


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