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The land is not just ancient but “antique,” and while many of its artifacts end up as the possessions of distant museums, they may yet be capable of overpowering their audiences. Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ozymandias” is traditionally taken as an exploration of hubris, and of the obliviating effect of time on power and its pretensions. But the poem also speaks to the power of art to preserve, and how this is accomplished by a hermeneutic collaboration between artist, audience, and subject matter. If there is something alive in the passions reproduced within an artist’s inanimate medium, then our creative powers may ultimately not belong to us.
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Thanks to Nick Ketter for the audio editing on this episode.