Lowering the Human Throne: European Literature to 1900
This chapter analyzes works, mostly European, that are set in ruins or otherwise employ ruins as the backdrop for thinking on the relative brevity of human life, especially within the context of the nonhuman natural world. Lord Byron is one of the central figures in this chapter, namely Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Manfred, and other works, many of which balance ruminations on the brevity of life with personal struggles. Byron’s friend Percy Shelley is another important figure here (e.g., Queen Mab and Prometheus Unbound). Other figures I discuss include Joachim du Bellay, Edmund Spenser, John Dyer, Mary Shelley (The Last Man), Madame de Stael (Corrine), Chateaubriand (The Genius of Christianity), Goethe, Wordsworth, Clare, and Tennyson. I conclude the chapter with a brief overview of responses to anthropocentrism by some French Symbolists.