From the French Revolution, Reign of Terror, and Napoleonic Wars abroad to the dramatic social changes wrought by industrialization and political agitation at home, the Romantic age in Britain was characterized by dramatic historical and political violence. As a result, the reform movement of the early nineteenth century faced a crisis of agency, in the wake of both Waterloo and Peterloo, that centered on the role of violence in the hope for social progress. In poems such as The Mask of Anarchy and political writings such as "A Philosophical View of Reform," Matthew C. Borushko argues, Percy Bysshe Shelley intervenes in this reformist crisis of agency with a highly original political program of nonviolence rooted in the redefining of aesthetics as the primary site for a critique of the violence of post-revolutionary Europe. Grounded in the dynamic historical contexts in which Shelley wrote and informed by twentieth-century theory, Shelley's Romantic Nonviolence shows how Shelley's body of work reconceived the possibility of the political possibilities of art and explores the implications of Shelley's nonviolence for later artists and reformers such as George Bernard Shaw to Mohandas K. Gandhi.
Matthew C. Borushko is Assistant Professor of English at Stonehill College, USA.