Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department or School

English Language and Literature

Committee Member

Laura George, PhD, Chair

Committee Member

Elisabeth Däumer, PhD


In his “Defence of Poetry,” Shelley claims, “Poets… were called in the earlier epochs of the world legislators or prophets.” As such, even a cursory glance at Shelley’s poetry and political beliefs reveals an interest in what is wrong with the world, how to fix it, and what will happen if no action is taken. However, current studies fail to fully assess what makes up the prophetic imagination. They confine discussions of Romantic prophecy to discussions of prophetic inspiration, futurity, and rhetoric – divorcing the work from its impetus for social change. The prophetic imagination, as utilized by Shelley, is instead connected to an ancient Old Testament tradition of radical challenge to authority that possesses a distinctly social function. This study examines Shelley’s poetry and prose as intentionally prophetic texts that critique the dominant consciousness of his (and future) times and energize a community of resistance to the status quo.