Romantic Realignments is one of the longest-running research seminars in Oxford.

Past speakers have included Marilyn Butler, Gerard Carruthers, David Chandler, Heather Glen, Paul Muldoon, Philip Shaw, Fiona Stafford and Peter Swaab, to name but a few.

All are very welcome to submit an abstract — we aim to provide a friendly 'workshop' setting in which speakers can try out new papers as well as more finished pieces, and in which lively discussion can flourish.

Held on Thursdays at 5.15pm, Seminar Room A, St Cross (English Faculty) Building.

If you would like to send us an abstract or suggest a speaker, please contact the current convenors Katherine Fender, Sarah Goode and Honor Rieley at:


Week 4 – 'Hume, Shelley and the Evolution of Myth'

Pablo San Martín Varela, University of Edinburgh

This week sees the second part of our Edinburgh double-header, as Pablo San Martín speaks on the shift from an Enlightenment to a Romantic definition of 'myth'.


This paper explores the history of the modern conception of ‘myth’ as it emerged during the Enlightenment, and how it was then reshaped during the Romantic period, centring on the works of David Hume and Percy Shelley. In An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding and The Natural History of Religion Hume developed the basic enlightened conception of myth as ‘fable,’ ‘invention,’ ‘fiction,’ or ‘illusion’, which according to the philosopher of religion Mircea Eliade later prevailed during the nineteenth century and is still present today’s use of the word ‘myth’. In the aforementioned works, Hume assessed myths in terms of an empiricist criterion of truth, and regarded them as corrupted historical records which had lost all relation to the original facts they were supposed to refer to. Shelley inherits this enlightened conception of myth from Hume, and deploys it in his early critique of religion (letters, prose and poems), levelling the narrations contained in the Bible with pagan mythology. In his later poetical practice, however, (especially in Prometheus Unboud and Hellas, and their prefaces) Shelley advanced a different and more positive conception of myth (which we could call ‘Romantic’) as  ‘true story’, ‘sacred tradition’, ‘primordial revelation’, and ‘exemplary model’, together with a more idealistic criterion of truth.

All welcome as always!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.