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Romanticism and the Self-Conscious Poem$
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Michael O'Neill

Print publication date: 1997

Print ISBN-13: 9780198122852

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198122852.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 17 October 2021

The Reading of an Ever-Changing Tale’: Keats (1)

The Reading of an Ever-Changing Tale’: Keats (1)

(p.180) 7 The Reading of an Ever-Changing Tale’: Keats (1)
Romanticism and the Self-Conscious Poem

Michael O'Neill

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores poetry's concern with its status as poetry and with the status of poetry more generally. It argues that Keats's relevance to us resides, to a considerable degree, in the way his whole-hearted pursuit of poetic excellence is crossed (though never deflected) by a fear that poetry may itself be ‘a mere Jack a lanthern’. Above all, it is fascinated by the different forms which ‘self-consciousness’ takes in Keats's poetry, examining his oeuvre in the light of the propositions and hidden challenges, even contradictions, in the ‘poetical Character’ letter which the poet wrote to Richard Woodhouse in October 1818. Among other things, the chapter suggests that the drama of ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ has much to do with Keats's sense of the burden of imaginative experience — a burden which attracts and repels the poet — and that ‘Ode on Indolence’ is an underestimated and central poem, exploring the poet's wish not to be stirred out of an ‘indolence’ at once fruitless and potentially fertile.

Keywords:   Keats, self-consciousness, Richard Woodhouse, Ode to a Nightingale, Ode on Indolence

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