Laon and Cythna is one of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s most celebrated, and most controversial, literary works. At once philosophical treatise and love story, it follows the adventures of a pair of siblings who lead a political uprising based on socialist, feminist, and ecological ideals, only to be executed for treason. In its own time Shelley’s poem was condemned by some for promoting sedition, atheism, promiscuity, and incest, while others praised its beauty and radical vision. Although it inspired a generation of writers and activists, today Laon and Cythna is hardly read except by scholars. This edition seeks to correct that oversight and to introduce new audiences to this important and powerful text.
Historical appendices provide context for Shelley’s political and philosophical ideas, contemporary feminism, and the treatment of Asia and the Middle East in Romantic literature.
“With its illuminating appendices and compellingly argued introduction, Anahid Nersessian’s edition of Laon and Cythna; Or, the Revolution of the Golden City richly contextualizes and enlivens one of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s most understudied poems. This edition will become essential reading for students, scholars, or anyone studying Romantic literature’s engagement with the French Revolution and its aftermath, orientalist aesthetics, feminist thought, and utopian philosophy. Indispensable for those working with the poem’s later incarnation—the revised and retitled The Revolt of Islam—Nersessian’s edition also makes the original censored poem and its literary and historical contexts easily accessible for the first time.” — Michele Speitz, Furman University
“This new edition of Laon and Cythna makes Shelley’s epic revolutionary romance widely available in a scholarly yet accessible form for the first time. Anahid Nersessian’s highly engaging and wide-ranging introduction makes a compelling case for the centrality of the text’s preoccupations to Shelley’s work and thought more widely, in particular, how Shelley’s reflection on the nature and means of sociopolitical reform shapes the trajectory of the poem. The introduction and supplementary material provide a rich range of historical, political, and literary contexts for the poem. Nersessian demonstrates how the poem participates in contemporary debates about women’s rights, the possibilities of non-violent revolution, and the desirability of vegetarianism, and discusses the poem’s contribution to ideas of Romantic orientalism. This superb new edition is an invaluable resource for new readers and experienced scholars alike and is a timely contribution to Shelley studies more broadly.” — Sally West, University of Chester