The Other Ozymandias: Romanticism and Bibliomania
Wed October 9th 2013, 5:00 - 7:00pm
Seminar on Enlightenment and Revolution 1660–1830, a Stanford Humanities Center Research Workshop in Honor of John Bender
Stanford Humanities Center, Board Room
Presenter: Denise Gigante, Professor of English
Ozymandias founded an empire in remote antiquity but only his ruins have come down to us. In Percy Shelley’s poem named after him, they stand for an unbounded hunger for power that never can be quenched but in death, a fit monument for what Keats once called “egotistical sublimity.” For the purpose of this talk, Professor Gigante prefers the phrase “Sublime Ozymandianism,” a sufficiently greedy aesthetic that it requires some irony. While we do not normally think of sublimity and irony as going together—typically, one cancels out the other—she considers “Ozymandias” as a reworking of the Romantic sublime in the context of something quite anachronistic to ancient Egypt, namely, consumerism. And specifically, a form of consumerism tied to a fascination with the past: antiquarianism. The phenomenon of Romantic bibliomania was a literary form of antiquarianism, and the Other Ozymandias in the title of this talk was the bibliomaniac.