A genealogy of narcissism: Shelley’s self-love
There are two opposing accounts of Shelleyan love, and both are true. The first emphasizes the centrality of the self and its likeness in Shelley’s understanding of love, and considers it essentially narcissistic. The second preserves a sense of Shelley the philanthropos, and sees love as a form of resistance to “the dark idolatry of self.” In supporting both accounts, my argument is that Shelley’s love is indeed narcissistic, but in a way which obliges us to rethink the concept of narcissism and its relation to selfishness. What follows is genealogical in form: I trace Shelley’s thinking on love through a number of key texts in order to show how the poet commits himself to an understanding of love that both centers on, and yet abnegates, the self.