Prometheus in the Nineteenth Century
From Myth to Symbol
Studies In Comparative Literature 25
Legenda: Oxford, June 2013
On Zeus’ order, Prometheus was chained to Mount Caucasus where, every day, he was to endure his liver being devoured by a bird of prey — his punishment for bringing fire to mankind. Through the impulse of Goethe, his fortune went through radical changes: the Titan, originally perceived as a trickster, was established both as a creator and a rebel freed from guilt, and he became a mask for the Romantic artist. This cross-disciplinary study, encompassing literature, the history of art, and music, examines the constitution of the Prometheus myth and the revolution it underwent in 19th-century Europe. It leads to the Symbolist period — which witnessed the coronation of the Titan as a prism for the total work of art — and aims to re-establish the importance of Prometheus amongst other major Symbolist figures such as Orpheus.
Caroline Corbeau-Parsons is Assistant Curator 1850-1915 at Tate Britain.