Date of Award

1998

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Jim Borck

Abstract

In his "epic" retelling of the Don Juan tale, Byron playfully transforms his conventional sources into a poem which explores, among other subjects, Byron's poetics. Of the many love relationships in Don Juan, Juan and Haidee's represents not only ideal love, but also a startlingly Romantic expression of poetic activity. The lovers' transformation of the elements of their heretofore hostile world into a natural playworld is accomplished by a fourth variety of Romantic imagination, a Byronic Fancy which surpasses the mechanical nature of Coleridge's "Fancy." Operating in a manner strikingly similar to Coleridge's "secondary Imagination," Byron's poetic faculty also "dissolves, diffuses, dissipates ... to re-create," stopping short, though, of the familiar unifying vision of the Romantics. In the three romantic episodes which serve as foils to the love of Juan and Haidee, the traditions which inform the lovers' concepts of love are disclosed to be only imitations of honest emotion. Julia's idea of romantic love follows the overworked Petrarchan model; Gulbeyaz is trapped in a world where love is just another strategy of control and survival; the English noblewomen have learned from the sentimental literature of their day to value an unauthentic, intellectual "feeling" above all else. In their attempts to find personal value through the love games they devise, Juan's amours cannot get beyond the most basic level of creative play--that of the Coleridgean Fancy. They relate mechanically to their surroundings, choosing and manipulating the components of their lives until they gain a sense of power--unlike Juan's expansive, transformative mode of play. For the women who have joined in love games, however flawed, with Juan, interacting with the power of the Byronic Fancy expands their world. The reader of Don Juan--interacting with a playfully shifting text, narrator, and poet--experiences a far greater enrichment.

ISBN

9780591998092

Pages

254

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