This essay presents a close analysis of P.B. Shelley’s fragmentary ekphrastic poem “On the Medusa of Leonardo da Vinci in the Florentine Gallery.” It places Shelley’s text in its aesthetic, mythological and historico-political contexts to demonstrate how Shelley aims to undo the ideological and representational structures of power that inform human language, art, and history, and which turn Medusa into the monstrous Other as which she appears. In Shelley’s text by contrast, Medusa becomes a figure for a revelatory beauty that cannot become visible in the distorting parameters of a discourse of power that informs our very perception of what we take to be reality. “On the Medusa” can thus be read as part of the project of poetic renovation Shelley proposes in A Defence of Poetry and Prometheus Unbound, and which aims to develop a poetic language generative of modes of perception that can provide a glimpse beyond the petrifying limits of representation.
Schlutz, Alexander M. "Recovering the Beauty of Medusa." Studies in Romanticism 54, no. 3 (Fall 2015): 329-53.