© 2005

Shelley and Vitality

  • Authors

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiii
  2. Sharon Ruston
    Pages 1-23
  3. Sharon Ruston
    Pages 24-73
  4. Sharon Ruston
    Pages 102-131
  5. Sharon Ruston
    Pages 132-156
  6. Sharon Ruston
    Pages 157-180
  7. Sharon Ruston
    Pages 181-185
  8. Back Matter
    Pages 186-229

About this book


Shelley and Vitality reassesses Percy Shelley's engagement with early nineteenth-century science and medicine, specifically his knowledge and use of theories on the nature of life presented in the debate between surgeons John Abernethy and William Lawrence. Sharon Ruston offers new biographical information to link Shelley to a medical circle and explores the ways in which Shelley exploits the language and ideas of vitality. Major canonical works are reconsidered to address Shelley's politicised understanding of contemporary scientific discourse.


Percy Bysshe Shelley poet poetry Romanticism

About the authors

SHARON RUSTON was appointed as Lecturer in English Literature to the University of Wales, Bangor in 2000. She has previously published articles in the journal Romanticism, and has edited a collection of essays, The Anxiety and Influence of the British Romantics.

Bibliographic information


'A fascinating and accomplished study, throwing new light on Shelley and the Vitality debate of which he was part. Deeply scholarly, and making persuasive use of manuscript sources, it proves links and influences that were not fully appreciated hitherto - and it does so in a consistently readable narrative, whose style is engaging, to-the-point and clear.' - Professor Tim Fulford, Department of English and Media Studies, Nottingham Trent University, UK

'[A]n interesting and suggestive study which should continue to galvanize our sense of the range, relevance, and maturity of Shelley's work.' - Cian Duffy, Modern Language Review

'Ruston's literary analyses are engaging and interesting and offer new insights into Shelley's politics, his writing, and the inextricable relationship between the two.' - Sharrona Pearl, Isis

'Sharon Ruston's book is excellent...Ruston's summary of the Lawrence/Abernethy rift is detailed, scholarly and impressively clear: this section of the book can stand alone as a good introduction to that chapter in the history of medical science and culture.' - Clark Lawlor, The Keats-Shelley Review

'Ruston usefully expands upon [is] Shelley's connection with the central medical debate of his age: the controversy surrounding vitalism - what gives life to matter' - G. Kim Blank, Times Higher Education