John Keats 1795–1821
English poet and dramatist.
See also, Hyperion Criticism.
John Keats, today renowned as a leading poet of the Romantic movement, was viciously snubbed by many contemporary critics and by other poets. During his lifetime, Keats struggled against the obstacles of his lower-middle class social standing, limited education, early association with the "Cockney School" of poetry, and poor health, as he sought to develop his skills as a poet and advance his poetical theories. Even after his premature death at the age of twenty-five, and well into the nineteenth century, Keats's poetry continued to be disparaged as overly sensitive, sensuous, and simplistic. By the twentieth century, however, his position within the Romantic movement had been revalued by critics. Keats continues to draw scholarly, critical, and popular attention. Issues examined by modern critics include Keats's political leanings; his theories regarding poetic imagination and "negative capability"; the rapid development of his poetry from the Cockney style to his more complex efforts, such as Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, and his later odes; and Keats's treatment of women in his poetry.
Keats, the oldest of four children, was born in London in 1795 into a working, middle-class family. He lost both his parents at an early age; his father died when Keats was seven, and his mother died six years later. The Keats children were then placed within the care of a guardian. While attending the Clarke school in Enfield, Keats did not display any proclivity toward literature until the age of fifteen, when his friend Charles Cowden Clarke, the son of the school's headmaster, helped to interest Keats in mythology and travel-lore. At about the same time, Keats's guardian apprenticed the teenager to an apothecary-surgeon. Keats entered medical school and in 1816 passed the examinations required to become a surgeon. That same year, Keats met Leigh Hunt, who published the liberal journal the Examiner. In 1817, Keats published a volume of poems, which is typically characterized as an immature effort, although the few reviews the volume received were not wholly unfavorable. The 1818 publication of Endymion is regarded as a transitional effort by Keats, in which the influence of Hunt and his Cockney
style is still detected in the use of colloquialisms, and in the luxurious and sentimental style. Yet the poem also displays an increasing level of skill and maturity that would culminate in Keats's next volume of poetry, Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems (1820). This publication would also be Keats's last; shortly after the publication of Endymion, the first symptoms of tuberculosis, the disease that had killed his mother and his brother Tom, began to trouble Keats. In the autumn of 1820, in an effort to stabilize his health in Italy's fair climate, Keats left England, what remained of his family, and his love, Fanny Brawne. Keats died in Rome five months later.
Endymion, while still displaying some of the flaws of Keats's earlier poetry, was also graced with mythological, poetical, and artistic imagery. The story itself, chronicling the love of Endymion and Diana, is based in myth, although Keats's knowledge of it was taken from other English renderings of the myth, as Keats never learned Greek. The primary theme of the poem has been described by critics Samuel C. Chew and Richard D. Altick (1948) as "the quest of a unity transcending the flux of the phenomenal world." Keats's Hyperion, published in his 1820 volume of poetry, was followed by the incomplete The Fall of Hyperion, which is regarded by most critics as Keats's attempt to revise the earlier work. Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion, like Endymion, focus on mythological themes; the story centers on the Titans' fall to the triumphant Olympians. Some critics have suggested that the history of the French Revolution played some role in Keats's construction of the poem. Other works considered to be among Keats's greatest are the odes published in the 1820 volume, including "Ode to Psyche," "Ode to a Nightingale," and "Ode on a Grecian Urn." The poems examine such themes as the relationship between art and life, and the nature of human suffering.
One issue modern critics have studied is the discrepancy between the initial, often negative, reception of Keats and his poetry and the stellar literary reputation Keats enjoys today. Marjorie Levinson (1988) focuses her study on the barrier posed by Keats's social standing, pointing out ways in which his lower-middle-class status affected his work and influenced the negative reviews offered by his critics. Concentrating on politics rather than class status, Nicholas Roe (1992) similarly maintains that Keats's potential political subversiveness was the reason his poetry was deprecated by contemporary critics. Like Roe, Morris Dickstein (1983) examines Keats's politics, demonstrating that early on, Keats was associated not only with Leigh Hunt's poetry, but also with his liberal politics. Dickstein further argues that Keats makes his revulsion for the politics of the day and his desire for social and political progress explicit themes in both his poetry and his letters.
Keats's letters are often studied by critics to gain insight into his poetical theories. Wolf Z. Hirst (1981) examines Keats's letters to his family and friends and discusses what the letters reveal about Keats's theories of "negative capability," the truth of Imagination, and "soul-making." Hirst interprets that by negative capability, Keats was referring to the ability of a poet to suppress his ego, to be "capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason… ." Keats's letters also reveal his belief that human suffering is a necessary experience in the processes of personality development and soulmaking, and that what the imagination apprehends as beauty must be truth. These theories are also reflected in Keats's poetry, and critic A. E. Eruvbetine (1984, 1987) examines the qualities of Keats's poetic imagination and of beauty as an aesthetic ideal, as displayed in his poems. Eruvbetine argues that to Keats, imagination served as the "true voice of feeling," that through the imaginative experience truth was revealed and new experiences could be envisioned. In the essay on beauty, Eruvbetine asserts that beauty represented to Keats a medium for accessing truth. While truth and beauty were apparently resolved into a single aesthetic ideal, the critic notes, beauty remained the focus of the ideal.
In addition to exposing his poetical theories, Keats's letters also conveyed his mixed emotions about the love of his life, Fanny Brawne. Critics such as Margaret Homans (1990) examine Keats's remarks to and about Fanny Brawne in his letters as a means of understanding the way in which women are portrayed in his poetry. Homans likens the objectification and distancing of Brawne in the letters to Keats's objectification of women in his poetry, and to the poet's attempts to exclude female readers from gaining access to his poems. Similarly, in Karla Alwes's 1993 study of Keats's exploitation of the female "not only as an ideal to be achieved but as an obstacle to that achievement," Alwes suggests that Keats's difficult relationship with Brawne is related to the depiction of the female in "La Belle Dame sans Merci," in which the critic argues "the male is seen as most vulnerable."
In addition to these areas of scholarship, modern critics still study Keats's poetry in more traditional ways, analyzing his imagery, style, and the structure of his poems. For example, Richard Harter Fogle (1949) explores the way in which the "concreteness" of Keats's imagery affects the metrical structure of his poems; François Matthey (1974) examines the development of the structural complexity of Keats's poetry; Jack Stillinger (1990) asserts that through narrative analysis Keats's poems can be better understood; and John A. Minahan (1992) investigates Keats's use of music in his poetry.
Most modern students and scholars appear to be interested in Keats as an individual and as a poet, noting that to fully appreciate the poetry, one must fully appreciate the man. As Jerome McGann (1979) argues, Keats must be approached historically, rather than in the strictest literary sense, if analysis of his poetry "is to achieve either precision or comprehensiveness."
Poems (poetry) 1817
Endymion: A Poetic Romance (poetry) 1818
Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems (poetry) 1820
Life, Letters, and Literary Remains of John Keats (letters and poetry) 1848
Another Version of Keats's "Hyperion" (poetry) 1856
Letters of John Keats to Fanny Brawne (letters) 1878
Letters of John Keats to His Family and Friends (letters) 1891
The Complete Poetical Works and Letters of John Keats (letters and poetry) 1899
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SOURCE: "The Apprenticeship: The Early Sonnets," in The Stylistic Development of Keats, The Humanities Press, 1958, pp. 1-19.
[In the following excerpt, originally published in 1945, Bate analyzes the style and structure of Keats's early poetry, particularly the sonnets. Bate explores the influence of Leigh Hunt, most notably in Keats's word and image choices, and in Keats's use of the caesura and metrical variations.]
"So this Poem must rather be considered as an endeavour than a thing accomplish'd: a poor prologue to what, if I live, I humbly hope to do."
—From the rejected Preface to Endymion.
Few poets have elicited more analysis and discussion since the close of the last century than has Keats. His poetry, with the aid of his letters, has been studied from almost all angles; it has been re-interpreted biographically and philosophically, and has been placed more clearly in its contemporary setting. There has been no proportionate scrutiny, however, of the stylistic and especially the metrical excellence of Keats's verse, the peculiar course of its progress, the relation of its development to his own critical theories, and the exact character of the influence on it of other poets. It may be assumed that such a scrutiny would prove rewarding. For during the four or five years of his active writing career, Keats...
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SOURCE: "John Keats," in A Literary History of England, edited by Albert C. Baugh, Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., 1948, pp. 1241-51.
[In the following essay, originally published in 1948, Chew and Altick offer a brief overview of Keats's life and works. The critics conclude by observing the impact of Keats on Victorian arts and literature.]
Keats,1 like Théophile Gautier, was "a man for whom the physical world exists." His genius was objective and concrete, moving not so readily in the world of abstract thought as in the world of imaginative realization.2 Yet critics who regard him as the lover and creator of sensuous beauty are opposed by those who contend that he is a great philosophic poet.3 The truth probably lies between these two extremes. Efforts to synthesize his ideas do not carry conviction, for later views of life would, had he lived longer, probably have been as much subject to change as had been those of earlier date. All that can be discerned clearly is the drift from romantic egocentricity towards objectivity. The problem of his development is one of the most fascinating of literary studies because of the wealth of evidence both in his poems and letters and in the records accumulated by his friends.4 The swiftness of his progress is almost without parallel in the history of the arts. There were retardations and perturbations, returning eddies...
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SOURCE: "Concrete and Abstract Imagery," in The Imagery of Keats and Shelley: A Comparative Study, Archon Books, 1949, pp. 184-240.
[In the following excerpt, published originally in 1949, Fogle examines the characteristics of what many critics describe as the "concreteness" of Keats's imagery. Fogle demonstrates that Keats's technique of focusing his perceptions upon single objects results in the extraction of "the last drop of beauty and meaning" and also affects the metrical structure of the poetry.]
Critics are generally agreed that the imagery of Keats is "concrete." Robert Bridges, for example, in comparing his "Sleep and Poetry" with Wordsworth's Tintern Abbey, points out "the extreme difference between Keats' objective treatment and Wordsworth's philosophising," citing to show the contrast the older poet's
The coarser pleasures of my boyish days
And their glad animal movements
over against Keats's
A pigeon tumbling in clear summer air;
A laughing schoolboy, without grief or care,
Riding the springy branches of an elm.1
A. C. Bradley declares that Keats tends to "a concrete method of treatment; to the vivid presentment of scenes, individualities, actions, in...
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SOURCE: "Egotistical and Chameleon: Byron, Shelley, and Keats," Ch. 4 in The Central Self: A Study in Romantic and Victorian Imagination, The Athlone Press, 1968, pp. 103-51.
[In the following excerpt from her chapter, Ball argues that Keats 's poetry is marked by both egotism, in the poet's focus on his poetic vision as well as his own emotional needs, and by his chameleon-like response to his subject matter, that is, his ability to identify with and lose himself in the object of the poetry.]
… Keats in his letters darts like a bird above the rough ground where his poems stumble and fight their way forward. The letters perceive in flashes, the poems must fulfil his precept—nothing is real until it is experienced. They are the means by which Apollo is made a god: experience becoming consciousness. The process is necessarily incomplete; its difficulty, never underestimated in his own judgment, increased with the growing complexity of life, its crosscurrents and whirlpools of desires, ideas, people and events. But his poems written within such a concentrated span of years reveal the intimacy of chameleon and egotistical, the singleness of their ambition, with a particular clarity. Despite his classification of himself as chameleon, the poems as much as the letters show strong egotistical awareness. In the Odes he writes directly from this centre, impressing himself upon his materials and making out of...
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SOURCE: "Pyramidal Structure," in The Evolution of Keats's Structural Imagery, Francke Verlag Bern, 1974, pp. 145–93.
[In the following essay, Matthey argues that Keats employs within his poetry an increasingly complex structure, characterized by "rising and falling" imagery and symmetrical patterns, in order to complement the themes of the poems and heighten their emotional effects.]
A Sentimental Journey
The letters (27th April and 3rd May) in which Keats informs Reynolds of the completion of "Isabella" put an end to the young poet's evolution, so far as the structure of his poems is concerned. Indeed events take a dramatic turn as Keats and his brother Tom leave Devon unexpectedly on May 4 or 5, rushing back to London. And the next few weeks seem to have been a very busy time. The cause of the turmoil is the sudden change brought about by George's plans and the introduction into the group of a new partner, his young wife Georgiana. May letters are extremely scarce. On the 17th Tom informs Marian Jeffrey of George's departure for America, of John's projected trip to Scotland and of his own intention of crossing over to the Continent in order to recover his health. Only on the 21st does the poet write to Bailey, and the tone is very different from the usual discussions about poetry. The retirement and confinement imposed by Tom's sickly life, explode into activity. A whirlwind...
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SOURCE: "The Mature Myth: From the Odes through 'The Fall of Hyperion: A Dream'," in From Innocence through Experience: Keats's Myth of the Poet, No. 34, edited by Dr. James Hogg, Institut fur Englische Sprache und Literatur, Universitat Salzburg, 1974, pp. 84-147.
[In the following essay, Tate explores how Keats's later poems reinforce his "myth of the poet." Tate explains that several major themes—including identity, "soulmaking," the visionary nature of a poet's quest, the role of the imagination, and the relationship between beauty and truth—exemplify Keats's belief that the role of the poet is to achieve a "mythic understanding of human life."]
In the last great year of his productivity, Keats was to write not only the great odes ("Ode to Psyche," "Ode to a Nightingale," "Ode on a Grecian Urn," "Ode on Melancholy," and "To Autumn") but "Lamia" and the fragmentary The Fall of Hyperion: A Dream, an attempt at recasting the original version. The February-April journal letter to the George Keatses, which preceded the writing of this poetry, culminated in the inclusion of the first of the odes, "To Psyche." It is important to remember that it is in this letter that the "vale of Soul-making" passage occurs (II, 102-04), that Keats had been speculating on the place of man in the universe, and that it is perhaps in this passage that he comes to a kind of acceptance or working through of...
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SOURCE: "Keats and the Historical Method in Literary Criticism," in Modern Language Notes, Vol. 94, No. 5, December, 1979, pp. 988-1032.
[In the following essay, McGann first reviews the principles of historical literary analysis and then argues for the significance and necessity of using the historical approach in studying Keats's work, despite the "virtually unanimous decision of Western literary critics " that historical analysis is irrelevant to the understanding of Keats's poetry.]
Conflicts between formal or stylistic analysis and historical scholarship are a traditional problem in literary studies. In the field of hermeneutics, where the lines of disagreement tend to sharpen, the best commentators—Lionel Trilling, for example—have generally aimed for, and achieved, various pragmatic agreements. Few critics would take seriously any suggestion that Byron's poetry could be adequately interpreted without bringing a fair amount of historical and biographical information to bear.1 On the other hand, a text-only approach has been so vigorously promoted during the last thirty-five years that most historical critics have been driven from the field, and have raised the flag of their surrender by yielding the title "critic" to the victor, and accepting the title "scholar" for themselves.
This division of labor has produced a fundamentally unstable situation because it is...
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SOURCE: "The Letters," in John Keats, Twayne Publishers, 1981, pp. 32-50.
[In the following essay, Hirst demonstrates the significance of Keats's letters, asserting that within them, Keats reveals the details of his theories regarding "negative capability, " "soul-making," and the "truth of Imagination."]
I General Characteristics
Keats's 251 surviving letters provide a detailed record of his three most creative years and of the last year, when he no longer wrote poetry. They give us a clear picture of his personality, trace his development as a poet, and are full of spontaneous pronouncements on the nature of poetry which have become starting points for countless discussions on aesthetics. We come across phrases like "negative capability," "truth of Imagination," and "Soul-making" so often in criticism that we tend to forget the informal context in which such expressions first appeared.
Although, taken as a whole, Keats's letters may be seen as a fairly coherent body of thought, they consist of a series of insights scattered almost at random and interspersed with trivialities. Parts resemble lectures, others travelogues or pieces of journalism, and others again read almost like a diary. Four letters are verse epistles. Beside brief notes of four to six lines there are several lengthy journal-letters scribbled in installments; the longest, written to...
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SOURCE: "Keats and Politics," in Studies in Romanticism, Vol. 25, No. 2, Summer, 1986, pp. 175-81.
[In the following lecture, given in 1983 and published in 1986, Dickstein argues that critics have wrongly "walled off Keats from the unseemly political passions of his contemporaries, " and goes on to identify the political aspects of Keats's poetry.]
It is no doubt a thankless task to try to open up the question of "Keats and Politics" in a ten-minute paper, especially in a setting so unpolitical as a panel on "Aesthetic Creation in Keats." Try to imagine a comparable session devoted to something called "aesthetic creation" in Byron, or Shelley, or even Wordsworth; the very incongruity suggests how adamantly we have walled off Keats from the unseemly political passions of his contemporaries. "Of the major [Romantic] poets," says Carl Woodring, with just the right tinge of irony, "Keats is thought to have evaded most successfully the impurities of political reference."
No less than massive and deliberate evasion would indeed have been required for a poet whose active career spanned the four years from Waterloo to Peterloo, when England was abuzz with working-class unrest, middle-class agitation for reform, an economic crisis, a crushing burden of taxation left over from the Napoleonic wars, frequent public demonstrations, the suspension of Habeas Corpus, the arrest of booksellers, treason...
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SOURCE: "Beauty: the Keatsian Aesthetic Ideal," in Studia Anglica Posnaniensia, Vol. 17, 1984, pp. 251-69.
[In the following examination of the function of beauty in Keats's poetry, Eruvbetine maintains that beauty is idealized by Keats because it serves as the medium for apprehending truth. While Keats resolves beauty and truth into one aesthetic ideal, Eruvbetine explains, beauty is the primary concept and the focus of the ideal.]
When Keats wrote "Sleep and Poetry" in the summer of 1816, he expressed the wish for "ten years that [he] may overwhelm/[Himself] in poesy; so [he] may do the deed/That [his] soul has to itself decreed" (96-8). However, as early as January 1818, when he wrote the sonnet titled "when I have fears," he was almost certain of the imminence of a death that would inevitably prevent him from overwhelming himself in poesy or beauty, and from gleaning and storing the riches or beauties with which his brain teemed. Therefore, like one writing his own epitaph, he states in a letter to Fanny Brawne, February 1820, "If I should die, I have left no immortal works behind me—nothing to make my friends proud of my memory—but I have lov'd the principle of beauty in all things and if I had had time I would have made myself remember'd."1
Evident in this "memorial" is Keats's consideration of immortal works as great poetic creations that derive their profundity and...
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SOURCE: "John Keats's Notion of the Poetic Imagination," in Studia Anglica Posnaniensia, Vol. 20, 1987, pp. 163-77.
[In the following essay, Eruvbetine examines Keats's conception of the poetic imagination, stating that to Keats, the poetic imagination enabled the poet to "suspend his rigid instinctive and egotistical identity," and to become his subject by exploring and capturing the distinctive characteristics of the subject. Eruvbetine identifies several qualities of Keats's poetic imagination and argues that Endymion illustrates the qualities and function of the imagination.]
The Romantic sensibility derives its distinctness from a high sensitivity to the strength and weaknesses of the human imagination. Keats, like most other Romantics, placed high premium on, and evolved a theory of, the imagination which serves as the foundation upon which he built his poetic career. Essentially, he conceives of the poetic imagination as the faculty that enables the successful poet to suspend his rigid instinctive and egotistical identity, take on the existence of his subject, explore it thoroughly, and capture its distinguishable characteristics in art or poetry. Regarding all great poems as aesthetic records of poets' intimate experiences in this complex world, he views the poetic imagination (insofar as it aids poets in objective explorations and depictions of human experiences, and insofar as it...
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SOURCE: An introduction to Keats's Life of Allegory: The Origins of A Style, Basil Blackwell, 1988, pp. 1-44.
[In the following excerpt, Levinson surveys aspects of Keats's life and writing within their original social context and studies the relationship between his life and works, noting that Keats was born into a lower social class than many other Romantics, including Wordsworth, Byron, and Shelley. After discussing the way social disadvantages affected Keats's writing, Levinson reviews some of the early criticism of Keats's work, particularly that of Byron.]
The true cause of Mr. Keats's failure is, not the want of talent, but the misdirection of it … [T]here is a sickliness about his productions, which shews there is a mischief at the core. He has with singular … correctness described his own case in the preface to Endymion [sic:] 'The imagination of a boy', he says, 'is healthy, and the mature imagination of a man is healthy; but there is a space of life between, in which the soul is in a ferment, the character undecided, the way of life uncertain, the ambition thick-sighted: thence proceeds mawkishness'. The diagnosis of the complaint is well laid down; his is a diseased state of feeling arising from the want of a sufficient and worthy object of hope and enterprise, and of the regulating principle of religion.
Josiah Conder, Eclectic...
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SOURCE: "Keats Reading Women, Women Reading Keats," in Studies in Romanticism, Vol. 29, No. 3, Fall, 1990, pp. 341-70.
[In the following essay, Homans examines the reaction of female readers of Keats to his poetry, and observes the manner in which Keats viewed females and female readers. Homans also studies Keats's letters to Fanny Brawne, noting how he objectified and distanced himself from her; Homans compares this tendency to Keats's resentment of the power of female readers and to his attempts to exclude female readers from having access to his poetry.]
This paper began as an inquiry into women readers of Keats and the complex resistance—to borrow Judith Fetterley's term—they may have felt to his representation of them.1 But one can know very little about, for example, Fanny Brawne's apparent dislike of his dwelling on her Beauty, because Keats destroyed all her letters to him, a fact suggesting that, just as interesting as women readers' resistance to Keats, is Keats's resistance to women readers. Their resistance to him is at least in part the result of his design to repel their interest and advances, to resist being read by women readers, not only Fanny Brawne but others as well. This paper investigates both some real, historical women readers of Keats, and his construction of women readers as it emerges in a few of his letters and poems. Keats's views of women more generally, his...
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SOURCE: "Reading Keats's Plots," in Critical Essays on John Keats, edited by Hermione de Almeida, G. K. Hall & Co., 1990, pp. 88-102.
[In the following essay, Stillinger asserts that poetry should be read as fiction, in the sense that poems have plots, characters, points-of-view, and settings. Stillinger then reviews the several plots of Keats's poetry, arguing that examining the poems as narratives may yield a more complete understanding of them.]
A multitude of causes unknown to former times have combined to produce, in the minds of students, teachers, scholars, and English department administrators, a sharp and theoretically unjustifiable distinction between poetry and other forms of fiction. "Fiction" has come to mean exclusively prose fiction, and journals with titles like Modern Fiction Studies and Studies in Short Fiction are universally understood as having to do with novels and short stories. In principle, no one should object to the proposition that Paradise Lost, Don Juan, and The Ring and the Book (for example) are long fictions, or that "The Sick Rose," "La Belle Dame sans Merci," and "Peter Quince at the Clavier" are short fictions. But in practice, as everyone knows, poems are almost always read, taught, and written about in ways markedly different from those used in the study of prose fiction.
In the last decade or so nearly all the...
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SOURCE: "Keats's Lipsing Sedition," in Essays in Criticism, Vol. 42, No. 1, January, 1992, pp. 36-55.
[In the following essay, Roe suggests that one of the reasons Keats's politics and poetry were largely neglected by his contemporaries, and why his political interests are rarely recognized even today, was due to an effort by critics such as John Lockhart to discredit Keats as a man and a poet. Roe maintains that Lockhart and others took such measures because they recognized Keats's potential for subversiveness, and for threatening the "discourse of masculine authority" and the "prevailing codes of manliness."]
Keats's friend Richard Woodhouse wrote in his copy of Endymion, 'K. said, with much simplicity, "It will easily be seen what I think of the present Ministers by the beginning of the 3d Book"'.1 One can see readily enough from the opening of Endymion Book III that Keats was unimpressed by the government. The British Critic, however, was unalarmed by this example of Keats's political verse, observing that the poet had neglected to mention half of the establishment he was attacking: 'The third book begins in character, with a Jacobinical apostrophe to "crowns, turbans, and tiptop nothings"; we wonder how mitres escaped from their usual place'.2 John Lockhart, writing on the passage in Blackwood's Magazine, commented:
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SOURCE: "The Varieties of Musical Experience," in Word Like a Bell: John Keats, Music and the Romantic Poet, The Kent State University Press, 1992, pp. 29-44.
[In the following essay, Minahan investigates the various functions of music in Keats's poetry, noting that music serves as an enjoyable escape, as a magical, "special" experience, and as an imaginative experience which offers insight into the ordinary. Minahan also observes the connection between music and one of Keats's most lauded ideals, truth.]
Allusion as articulation: Keats's use of music as an idea, although it tells us a great deal about the poet's attitude toward music, also tells us much more. We might re-collect—bring to attention again and differently—the passage from the verse epistle "To Charles Cowden Clarke" that we examined in the preface.
… my heart
Was warm'd luxuriously by divine Mozart,
By Arne delighted or by Handel madden'd,
Or by the song of Erin pierc'd and sadden'd
And the rich notes to each sensation fitting;
We've already noted how the passage manifests that attention to both time and music characteristic of Romanticism. We should note now that we also encounter here attitudes we've just seen scattered throughout Keats's work or across his larger poems: music can cause simple...
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SOURCE: Introduction to Imagination Transformed: The Evolution of the Female Character in Keats's Poetry, Southern Illinois University Press, 1993, pp. 1-9.
[In the following essay, Alwes surveys Keats 's treatment of women in his poetry, asserting that the female is exploited "not only as an ideal to be achieved but as an obstacle to that achievement. " Alwes states that in Keats's poetry women symbolize the imagination and all it entails, from the joy of creation to the fear over its possible loss.]
A reader of Keats's works cannot help being struck by the abundance of female figures. Every major poem involves at least one feminine character—often more than one—and almost always as the controlling metaphor. She serves alternately as a means of preservation and as an agent of destruction to the poetry's male heroes, the she who must be both embraced and denied in order to acquire masculine identity. As Keats enacts it in his poetry, the power of the female is both primordial and transcendent, and by identifying her with his own often recalcitrant imagination, he exploits the female not only as an ideal to be achieved but as an obstacle to that achievement.
The romantic female persona is a poetic contrivance to her male creator. She is, as Elizabeth Janeway observes of the earliest images of goddesses from the Stone Age, a "fetish," a "lucky piece" for a "desperate man… . to thumb...
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SOURCE: "Keats, History, and the Poets," in Keats and History, edited by Nicholas Roe, Cambridge University Press, 1995, pp. 165-93.
[In the following essay, Newey explores the influence of other poets' political ideals on Keats and argues that Keats was "rather more conservative in outlook than is commonly assumed. " Newey states that despite Keats's "libertarianism and exposure of abuses," he appears to have assumed the superiority of the English over other cultures while favoring democratic, anti-authoritarian ideals.]
Keats's relation to 'the poets' is as much a factor in his thought and writing as are the fall of Napoleon or civil unrest in England, Waterloo or Peterloo, the public events which recent scholarship has rediscovered as not only the backdrop to his work but vital constituents of its meaning.1 To observe this relation is not, it should be said, to walk a blind alley of 'reflexiveness', where the subject of literature becomes nothing but literature itself; nor does it simply confirm theories of maturation or 'influence', where creativity develops through the strong poet's encounters with prior authority.2 The story of Keats and the poets is sometimes linear, as such theories tend to be, and sometimes contrapuntal—figuring change yet involving a mass of ongoing issues, partisan interactions, and contemporary affairs. It also reveals a Keats rather more conservative...
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Stillinger, Jack. "John Keats." In The English Romantic Poets: A Review of Research and Criticism, edited by Frank Jordan, pp. 665-718. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1985.
Bibliographic study covering editions of Keats's works, biographies of Keats, as well as general criticism, "specialized" studies, and criticism of individual works.
Bewell, Alan J. "The Political Implication of Keats's Classicist Aesthetics." Studies in Romanticism 25, No. 2 (Summer 1986): 220-29.
Studies the relationship between the politics of Hyperion and the aesthetics of the poem, stating that the political message of the poem is mediated by the reader's recognition of the conflict between life and art in the poem, as represented by the Titans. The Titans, Bewell observes, "never fully escape being seen as sculptures."
Brantley, Richard E. "Keats's Method." Studies in Romanticism 22, No. 3 (Fall 1983): 389-405.
Examines Keats's poetry as informed by both empiricism and grace, that is, as being simultaneously "tough-minded" and "tender-minded."
Goellnicht, Donald C. "The Politics of Reading and Writing: Periodical Reviews of Keats's Poems...
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