Five Questions: Bysshe Coffey on Shelley’s Broken World

By Matthew Sangster

Bysshe Coffey is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at Newcastle University. He is an expert on Percy Bysshe Shelley, having published extensively on his philosophy, prosody, and cultural contexts; his current project considers the Shelley’s diverse legacies in the period between the death of Mary Shelley and the centenary of his drowning. His first monograph, Shelley’s Broken World: Fractured Materiality and Intermitted Song, which we discuss below, has just been published by Liverpool University Press.

1) How did you come to realise you wanted to write a book on Shelley’s pauses and intermittences?

The book’s germ lay in my awareness of a peculiarity of Shelley’s expressive repertoire first noticed by his Victorian readers and editors: his innovatory use of pauses, which registered as irregularities in ears untuned to his innovations. It developed into a realisation that intermittence is a pervasive quality not only of his prosody, but of the incidents his verse describes. Intermittent states of being, vacancies, suspensions, strange immaterial formulations, tenuous and porous networks lace throughout his poetry. He is interested in the powerful interval between the course one was on and where one has ended up, and in the intervals of action, …read more