Romantic Poems, Poets, and Narrators

By Joseph C. Sitterson Jr. | Go to book overview

5
Lamia

Attitude Is Every Thing

Keats's Lamia encourages its readers to take sides but makes it uncertain with whom and with what actions we are to side, morally and emotionally. Earlier readers aware of this uncertainty generally regarded it as a flaw in the poem caused by Keats's confusion or lack of narrative ability.' Some readers more recently have come to see it as functional;2 we have not yet, however, investigated how much the problem is specifically a narrative one.3 This lack of critical attention to the poem's narrator may be due largely to Bernice Slote's influential study ofLamia, which argues that the poem is not personal but dramatic in conception and nature. This argument solves the poem's narrative problem by mastering the narrator's comments generically as “choric comment,” a distant dramatic analogue, which “summarizes and affirms the mood and accomplishment of the action itself.”4

I shall argue instead that this uncertainty indirectly reflects Keats's narrative strategy, a strategy that denies—to his reader, to his narrator, and perhaps, paradoxically, to Keats himself—mastery of that narrative. The narrator appears to be omniscient, fully in control of his story; Keats counts on the reader's customary identification with such a narrator. Nonetheless, Keats eventually prevents such a comfortable relationship, by complicating the narrator's attitudes to the point that the reader, in

-110-

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Romantic Poems, Poets, and Narrators
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Introduction to the Songs of Experience the Infection of Time 12
  • 2: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner: Distinguishing the Certain from the Uncertain 34
  • 3: The Prelude Still Something to Pursue 65
  • 4: The Intialthoughions Ode an Infinite Complexity 88
  • 5: Lamia: Attitude is Everything 110
  • Conclusion 137
  • Notes 153
  • Works Cited 185
  • Index 199
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