Date of Award

Fall 2000

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Michael Ferber


This is a study of the English Romantic poet and essayist Percy Bysshe Shelley's conception of the role and function of humans in the natural world, and of his influence on later reformers. Shelley's long poems Queen Mab, Laon and Cythna, and Prometheus Unbound are discussed as a trilogy where his themes of political nonviolence and protoecological awareness became integrated; also discussed at length are Mont Blanc, The Mask of Anarchy, and The Triumph of Life. The legacy of Shelley's poetry and ideas is discussed through two key figures who met in the 1880s: the now obscure Shelleyan and animal rights activist Henry S. Salt---who is championed as a forerunner of contemporary ecocriticism---and Mohandas Gandhi, who first came in contact with Shelley's works while in London as a law student. This study seeks to be both a contribution to the study of Romanticism as a cultural movement and an exploration of the historical development of environmental ethics. I take the term "nonviolence" to refer not only to the strategy of some political movements to refuse the use of violent tactics, but also to any philosophy which seeks to do as little harm as possible to the earth and its creatures. Shelley vigorously questioned the anthropocentric assumptions of his age, and thus continues to engage us with the possibilities of ethical nonviolence, both at the individual and social levels.