Christopher Wallis, Boston College
Chris Wallis is a second-year Master's student in English at Boston College. While studying abroad in 2003, he began investigating eroticism and abjection in nineteenth-century French literature, an endeavor that has led to a study of sexuality and the body extending over a number of fields, including the literature of Québec's Quiet Revolution, queer theory, American expatriate literature, and British Romanticism. Recently, Chris has developed and interest in Early Modern British literature and culture; he particularly enjoys exploring the intersecting discourses of class, gender, and sexuality in Renaissance drama. This summer, he will be presenting at the annual British Graduate Shakespeare Conference in Stratford-upon-Avon, England.
Reawakening Natural Awairness:
Environmentalism in Shelley's Prometheus Unbound
To refer to P.B. Shelley's Prometheus Unbound as an "environmentalist" text is not as radical as one might think. Critics often point to how Prometheus' liberation comes through his active changes in consciousness—a kind of internal environmentalism. When considering Prometheus Unbound's investment in external environmentalism, however, the critical voice is noticeably silent (or laughing). For many, the outer world in Shelley's text simply serves to mirror Prometheus' inner world, and thus the only nature that matters is human nature. Rather than espousing the position that nature's sole value in Prometheus Unbound is as a literary trope, this essay suggests that the play reveals a natural world capable of speech, emotion, and sensation, and that Shelley invests in both forms of environmentalism by showing how human thoughts and deeds directly shape the internal and external environment alike. As such, Prometheus' emancipation occurs through both his self-awakening and his awareness of his reciprocity with nature, a strikingly chiasmic relationship that Shelley makes visible through another often-neglected medium: the air.