KEATS The Materialism of Poetic Resistance
I have taken as my epigraph to this study of the ideology of the imagination Keats's famous remark in his letter to Benjamin Bailey: "the imagination may be compared to Adam's dream -- he awoke to find it truth." The remark demonstrates the degree to which the imagination had by the coming of the "second generation" of poets been successfully "instituted" and "enshrined" in Romantic discourse. Keats is both close enough to the ascent of the imagination to regard it as an event of historical significance and distant enough from it to take the imagination as the "given" of poetic discourse. Thus, Keats's poetry is written under the auspices of an imagination already instituted and enshrined, and, as I argued in the preceding chapter, an imagination decisively broken with by Shelley's last poem. In this chapter I shall consider how Keats's poetry contributes to the "break" we register in Shelley: I hope to reveal a "materialism" at work in Keats, a materialism that questions the truth claims made for the imagination and takes this "waking dream" to its breaking point.
Not so long ago, the claim of a " Keatsian materialism" would likely have appeared as little more than a willful perversion of the critical tradition. There is little doubt that without the recent good for