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Shelley's Living Artistry: Letters, Poems, Plays$
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Madeleine Callaghan

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781786940247

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781786940247.001.0001

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‘The sacred talisman of language’

‘The sacred talisman of language’

The Witch of Atlas and A Defence of Poetry

(p.172) Chapter Six ‘The sacred talisman of language’
Shelley's Living Artistry: Letters, Poems, Plays

Madeleine Callaghan

Liverpool University Press

Shelley’s letter to a Lady, written in 1821, considers the process of becoming a poet and the role of poetry. Yet the letter’s brevity and its focus on language render it subordinate, in terms of both its content and style, to the more intense exploration of poetry and imagination housed in The Witch of Atlas and A Defence of Poetry. Though The Witch of Atlas might seem more comic than thoughtful, Shelley approaches the question of the role of the poet and poetry with seriousness. Likewise, A Defence of Poetry does not content itself with exposition of how poetic language works. Instead, it works to embody not merely describe that which it discusses. The Witch of Atlas and A Defence of Poetry stand as two of Shelley’s most significant statements on poetic language and form the bedrock for any discussion of his poetics as they blaze far beyond the letter to a Lady’s instructive though prosaic description of language.

Keywords:   Witch Atlas Defence Poetry Letter Art Life Poetics

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