The breathless pursuit of an unattainable ideal, a trademark of English Romantic poetry, resurfaces in the 2013 film Her, written and directed by Spike Jonze. The possibility of securing such an ideal is presented in the film when the main character meets the girl of his dreams—a computer operating system. The genius behind the high-tech companion is not simply its compatibility with its user. In a relationship between a human and an operating system, the medium is the object of desire, which, paradoxically, creates the tantalizing possibility of unmediated intimacy. Nearly two centuries earlier Percy Shelley pursued the ideal of unmediated intimacy in his visionary, erotic poem Epipsychidion through the two feminine lights in his life, thinly veiled as Mary Shelley, and Teresa Viviani, a young woman confined to a convent. The poem does not describe a conventional love triangle, however. In his reverie Shelley imagines a union between himself and Teresa (renamed “Emily” in the poem), facilitated by Mary. Though this article will comment on other Romantic texts in this essay, Epipsychidion will be it’s primary focus in considering whether the technology in Her enables a consummation of Romantic yearning.

You do not currently have access to this content.