From the contagion of the world’s slow stain / He is secure
– Shelley, “Adonais”
I was zipping along with Conference Paper #2, thinking I would get it done in record time. But as I was poking at it I realized a major flaw. I was contrasting Woolf’s search for a non-Christian means of mourning the dead with the poets of old (who usually end their poems by offering the lost loved one up to God). But the poet she cites most frequently in Mrs. Dalloway is Shelley–whose pamphlet on atheism got him kicked out of Oxford, and whose atheism was a major factor in his failure to win custody of his children. Hmm. So I am rethinking and enjoying the chance to leave the 20th century for crazy Romantic poetry. And it’s interesting to see Shelley try to reinvent the elegy to suit his beliefs without alienating all of his audience. It means I am unlikely to get this paper finished as soon as I’d hoped, but it also means I will be working up material to expand one of my dissertation chapters.