Keats's Boyish Imagination

Keats's Boyish Imagination

Keats's Boyish Imagination

Keats's Boyish Imagination

Synopsis

For many readers, John Keats's achievement is to have attainted a supreme poetic maturity at so young an age. Canonical poems of resignation and acceptance such as 'To Autumn' are traditionally seen as examples par excellence of this maturity. In this highly innovative study, however, Marggraf Turley examines how, for Keats, an insistence on 'boyishness' in the midst of apparent mature imagery is the very essence of his political contestation of the literary establishment.

Excerpt

My first book, The Politics of Language in Romantic Literature (2002), was a traditional, if occasionally quirky, work of scholarship. in addition to exploring Romanticism's complex negotiation of radically new French and German theories of language as these percolated into the British intellectual and poetic consciousness between the 1790s and 1830s, it also sought to delineate the political contours of Romanticism's engagement with Continental philology. At first glance, the present volume is rather differently detained. Focusing on the work of a single author, Keats's Boyish Imagination is not concerned (first and foremost) with tracing the history of ideas, nor with identifying wider unifying tendencies within Romanticism. None the less, it has some important features in common with my earlier project. Chief among these is its commitment to drawing out the oppositional politics of key Romantic figures, in this case John Keats. in our difficult times, it is especially instructive and edifying to learn how great men and women of the past responded to, and found ways to protest against, the tyrannies and brutalities of their own days.

There are signal differences, too, in tone, frame, and approach, between the respective books. The Politics of Language in Romantic Literature pressed its claim by carefully marshalling newly uncovered details: revealing, for example, that Keats found key phrases from 'Ode on a Grecian Urn' and 'Ode on Melancholy' (including 'Beauty is truth, truth beauty', and 'when the melancholy fit shall fall / Sudden from heaven') in Etienne Bonnot de Condillac's now neglected volume of linguistic philosophy, An Essay on the Origin of Human Knowledge (translated into English by Thomas Nugent in 1756). By contrast, Keats's Boyish Imagination, which shows how objects/ conditions such as feet and puberphonia lead us towards a fuller and richer understanding of Keats's hybrid oppositional persona, is more vibrantly conceptual and eclectically resourceful, and seeks to put the cat among the pigeons. I hope my often 'left-field' approach to a major poet, while quite possibly not in chime with current criticism, will prove stimulating and prompt further discussion. If Keats was right about one thing - and he was right about many things - it was undoubtedly that 'there must be conversation of some sort' (unpublished Preface to Endymion).

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