Do you agree that "Lamia" is an allegorical critique of Keats's view of rationality overpowering imagination, not a tragedy?

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In “Lamia,” the character of Apollonius could be said to represent an allegory for the “cold hand of rationality” in that he destroys the happiness of Lamia and Lycias by turning up at their wedding banquet and revealing that Lamia is actually a snake. This could be seen as an allegory on the undermining of imagination by the cold power of reason.

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It is something of a myth, albeit a fairly persistent one, that the Romantics as a whole were hostile to reason. Although isolated figures of this great cultural movement did indeed show some degree of hostility to reason, most Romantics saw it as an important faculty, one that could tell us a lot about the world in conjunction with the imagination, which in the Romantic era was regarded as the most important faculty of all.

Romantics such as Keats were anxious to uphold the rights of the imagination in relation to reason. They saw it as providing access to truths that could never be fathomed by the application of the intellect. That being so, they were incredibly wary of reason intruding upon what they saw as the sole preserve of the faculty of the imagination, which was responsible for works of art.

This attitude is much in evidence in Keats's “Lamia,” which can be seen as an allegory on the dangers of the cold hand of rationality overpowering the heat of the imagination. In the poem, reason is represented by the philosopher Apollonius, who thinks he's doing Lycius, his philosophy student, a big favor by exposing his bride to be as a snake woman.

On an allegorical reading, the relationship between Lamia and Lycius represents the imagination. As well as mystery, there is also truth in this relationship; not what Apollonius would regard as the truth, to be sure, but the truth of the imagination, the truth for which Keats the arch-Romantic constantly strives.

The power of the imagination can be seen at its height in the spectacular wedding banquet that Lamia conjures up by employing divine spirits. This is truly a great work of art, rather like the poems, paintings, and novels that the Romantics sought to create. Strictly speaking, the banquet is an illusion. But then much the same thing could be said of all works of art, including “Lamia” itself. However, that doesn't make them any less true.

But that's not how the arch-rationalist Apollonius sees things. Imagination, far from being a source of truth, is rather a wellspring of lies and deceit. The wedding banquet, like works of art, diverts our attention from what is really true. In this particular case, that means the uncomfortable fact that Lamia is actually a snake.

And yet it wasn't cold hard fact, the only language that Apollonius can understand, that brought Lamia and Lycius together; it was a deep, underlying truth that no amount of ratiocination can possibly uncover.

In attacking that truth, the truth of love, with the cold, hard logic of fact, Apollonius may have made the world a little less mysterious, but he's also made it a lot less interesting into the bargain. For good measure, he's also destroyed Lycius's life, in much the same way that an over-rationalized, reductive approach to art tends to ruin our enjoyment of it.

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