Urban Decay or the Uncanny Return of Dionysus

An Analysis of the Ruins in Shelley's ‘Ozymandias’

in Critical Survey
Author:
Roohollah Datli Beigi University of Isfahan, Iran r.datli@fgn.ui.ac.ir

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Pyeaam Abbasi University of Isfahan, Iran abbasi@fgn.ui.ac.ir

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Zahra Jannessari Ladani University of Isfahan, Iran z.jannessari@fgn.ui.ac.ir

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Abstract

Written in the familiar genre of ruin poems, Percy Bysshe Shelley's ‘Ozymandias’ (1818) is well-expressive of the poet's profound hatred of tyranny. One of the distinctive features of the poem is the vividly visual images it provides of the ruined statue and the desert as the setting of the poem. Focusing on the images of the desert and ruins, and using the concept of urban decay and mytho-archetypal notions, this study attempts to show that the ruins of the poem anticipate the modern phenomenon of urban decay as the return of the repressed in city-forms. However, what the poem presents as destruction, death, ruins and decay is in fact the potential of bringing about spring and regeneration. Reading this poem in the light of the mentioned concepts provides the reader with an understanding of the function of the ruins in Shelley's poems as an uncanny Dionysian defiance against both the tyranny of his age and the rationalism of the Enlightenment period.

Contributor Notes

Roohollah Datli Beigi holds a PhD in English Literature from the Department of English Language and Literature, Faculty of Foreign Languages, University of Isfahan, Isfahan, Iran. Email: r.datli@fgn.ui.ac.ir

Pyeaam Abbasi (corresponding author) is Associate Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature, Faculty of Foreign Languages, University of Isfahan, Isfahan, Iran. Email: abbasi@fgn.ui.ac.ir

Zahra Jannessari Ladani is Assistant Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature, Faculty of Foreign Languages, University of Isfahan, Isfahan, Iran. Email: z.jannessari@fgn.ui.ac.ir

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