Abstract

Rhymes of Wonder: Otherness without Distortion

Focusing on the import of the last four lines of The Triumph of Life, "Rhymes of Wonder: Otherness without Distortion" explores the possible future that lies beyond the horizonal walling off of a triumphal Life that Shelley’s poem describes. Using Deleuze and Guattari to follow the traces of where dizzying speed can get us, the essay suggests that Shelley was headed with full speed toward the post-human, breaking off only with the stumble that inevitably occurs when human language fails to articulate what it cannot imagine. What remains is sound, the aural-oral capacity that tunes us in to life itself, to a living nature that cannot be captured by words yet within which we are thoroughly enmeshed. This is the enlightenment that Shelley’s poem gestures toward, against optically driven scientific knowledge; against the human condition as totalizing knowledge; against the impermanence of the material. Whereas the main part of The Triumph considers forms of self-willing within the human experience, it’s abandoned final lines suggest that Shelley intended to reread the alienating aspects of that self-willing as the first steps toward an alternate otherness that, in its beyondness, holds out the promise of a freedom from the human as a freedom from the distortions of suffering per se.