This webtext has sought to open up new ways of moving through both poetry and scholarship, taking Percy Shelley’s seeming invitation to transhistorical movement, turns, and disperals as its trope. Throughout, dispersed passages from Shelley’s poetry have invited the reader to interact with his and my text simultaneously and materially; although sometimes taken for granted, our bodies move and interact with digital texts. We move mice or our fingers over trackpads in a variety of gestures, we click, and we taken in, value, and place meaning on the figures we encounter on a given page or platform. I have sought to call our attention to the ways we interact with texts as readers by including some degree of autonomy and inviting readers to engage texts and readings as they choose. In this way, there are possibilities for readers to re-verse, pervert, or invert this text. (Perhaps some will choose to begin with this conclusion.)
The textual bodies we call “conclusions” function as kinds of mirrors. They reflect back to the reader not only what the author has said, but the reader’s own engagement and interpretation, as well. While writers can approach conclusions as summative and teleological, the endpoint toward which the other arguments and evidence have built, conclusions often also gesture backwards necessarily, reflecting the audience’s past readings into the present. In some ways, then, conclusions ask us to turn and return to the past, which also continues to change and refigure as we interact with texts anew.
In the introduction to this webtext, I outline several main aims for this piece. I will take the opportunity here to return to these moments, reflecting them back to my audience with details from other sections they may have now encountered.
1. As is one of my main arguments throughout “Formal Perversions” as a whole, when we read poetry, we also, unknowingly or not, are reading gender because we read poetic forms as embodied, and we read gender inherently onto bodies. (See the introduction to the study as a whole for further discussion.)
|"Methods and Aims" and the "Introduction" both address the ways unconventional and undisciplined forms of writing can be locations for queer work, while also providing new methods of meaning-making.
My audio recording in "Methods and Aims" also address the significance of producing an androgynous text while also focusing specifically on, and incorporating sound, as a location of embodied and temporal androgyny.
Passages from The Cenci (found here) demonstrate the ways forms are constructed based on their utility for heterosexual desire, which also cannot be realized due to desire's immateriality.
2. Taking this premise, I argue that Shelley’s poetry invites us to read across histories, forms, and, consequently, gender. Although Shelley, like many of his contemporary peers, had a dual and sometimes hypocritical opinion of sexual difference (he both did not believe in it yet simultaneously took it as a given, as I explore in other sections of this text), his poetry nonetheless enacts an embodied androgyny of both time and gender.
|In “Shelley and Disfiguring Form,” I discuss the ways Shelley’s Defence and his introduction to Plato’s Symposium invite us to read form across time and media. More than that, however, Shelley does not read textual bodies, social bodies, and human bodies as separate, but merely variations on ways to reflect the beautiful.|
3. Shelley’s formal use of sound is androgynous due sound’s ability to both draw our attention to historical difference and to cross it—and such movement across difference, textual or human, is queer.
|“Defining Sound” focuses on the unstable and undervalued place repetitious sound has held in criticism of poetry due to conceptions of linear temporality as well as sound’s association with pure “ornament.”
“Methods and Aims” explores how my incorporation of my own voice and embodiment moves across difference and engages in androgynous forms.
“Shelley, de Man, and Disfiguration” and “Reviewing Shelley” explore the ways Shelley’s forms are figured and disfigured continuously in reflection, and the ways that reflection became perverse and troublesome to reviewers and readers.
Sound moves transhistorically, crossing differences temporally and bodily: it disperses throughout the lines of a poem, and it is only on a return, and through reflecting, that we recognize sound patterns. Because Shelley invites us to read transhistorically and across forms, sound in his poetry figures and refigures queerness as we turn and return to sound patterns.
Although I am not offering this conclusion as a teleological end, it provides another way to, in retrospect, map a course through the arguments and readings made on this platform. My intent has been to offer new ways of queer, non-linear meaning-making both in the reading of poetry and in the composition of those readings. Perhaps there are ways to refigure Romantic scholarship as queer, to provide new pathways to meaning-making, and to reach across time to those poets who invite us to think in new, undisciplined, illegible, yet valuable ways.