Earth of Eternity: Shelley and Existence (Seminar, 14th November)

When: 14th November, 17.30-19.00
Where: Seminar Room, Hallgarth House, Durham University
Share: Let us know you are coming via the Facebook event.

Our next Inventions of the Text seminar is with Dr Madeleine Callaghan (University of Sheffield). This seminar is open to all but spaces may be limited, so please arrive early and let us know you’re planning to attend via the Facebook event.

About this seminar

Eternity, in its philosophical and religious appearances, might seem at odds with Shelley’s professed atheism; yet Shelley never lost sight of it, as separate from Christian meanings as he could manage, but nevertheless frequently borrowing its most characteristic descriptions. His poetry and prose reveal his attempt to write eternity rather than his confidence in achieving it. Though aiming at exploration of ‘previously uncharted realms’ he refuses any denial of fact or feigning of certainty. Shelley does not lay claim to eternity without testing its possibilities but more importantly, he acknowledges the existence of material reality even as he cannot bow to its power. Eternity is something that we crave and can sense in out mortal lives, but for Shelley, this is a particularly vexed desire in the absence of any divine architect. Faced with previous sages’ ‘records of their vain endeavour’ (‘Hymn to Intellectual Beauty’, 3. 28), Shelley explores new possibilities of imagining the eternal, attempting to go beyond those thinkers in an audacious attempt to write ‘the unascended heaven’ (Prometheus Unbound, 3. 2. 203).

The seminar will be followed by dinner in town – please send a brief email to if you would like to attend the dinner, in order that we can book a table with the right amount of seats.

This is part of the Department of English Studies’ Inventions of the Text series, convened in 2019-20 by PhD researchers Francesco Marchionni, Beatriz Lopez, and Hope Doherty.

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