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The Limits of Super-Rationality: A New Look at the Conception of Jupiter in Prometheus Unbound

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In Prometheus Unbound, the empire of Jupiter is a mythic figuration of monotheism and its corresponding hegemonies, broadly conceived in both instances as the domain of supreme oppressive governance. The ties of governance are reified by paternalism—hence the use of Jupiter (Gk. Zeu + pater) as the master embodiment of the Father, combining the role of God-the-Father in Judeo-Christianity, of the Trinity, of pope or monarch, and that of paterfamilias, such that, in Shelley's unifying vision, one becomes indistinguishable from the other: all emanations of the Law of the Father, the symbolic order of “rationality” which represses primordial desire, associated with Prometheus and Asia. The overthrow of Jupiter in Prometheus Unbound is an implicit rejection of European rationalist hegemony, embodied in the conception of a manic, autocratic sky God, uniting sacred and secular aspects, and a reinstatement of an extra, or at least more profound and enduring identity that is consistent with re-ascendant primeval forces, paradoxically embodied in the shadowy figure of Demogorgon, but repressed as long as Jupiter reigns.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-06-01

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