Literary Analysis

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Literary Analysis

Postby Shadowedrose » Thu May 13, 2004 3:10 am

Hi everyone. I'm new here, so forgive me if I'm being repetitive. I'm a senior in high school and for my research paper I have to do a literary analysis on a british writer. I chose John Keats quite obviously. :) So, I need to find some criticisms, and some analysis of his writings by an accredited critic (Forgive me, I don't mean to offend). Also, any ideas for how I can write a thesis about it? My teacher was very broad and general on this. Not very helpful. Thanks.
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Keats Criticism

Postby Saturn » Thu May 13, 2004 11:39 pm

Firstly well done for choosing Keats; even now a much underated poet in the annnals of English Poetry.

If you are meeting him for the first time, I wish you great enjoyment in discovering a man of great heart and boundless imagination.

Keats is particularly well served for criticism, and especially so in the late twentieth century, which has stripped away the pretified Victorian Keats-lite version of the poet.

Firstly, an essential biography is Robert Gittings' John Keats (1968) which is still for my money the superlative biography, which gave us not only new insights into Keats background, but shrewd and forthright criticism of the poems - always a delight to dip into. His edition of Selected Letters (Oxford 2001) includes much of the most famous and celebrated of his corrospondence.

Also well worth a read is Andrew Motions' Keats (Faber & Faber 1997) for a modern view from a modern poet who gives a Keats that is raw and bursting with life. Also included are many facsimiles of the poems and letters which give a sense of prescence that enhances the sense of the living writer. Motion's criticism of the poetry is naturally one of a poet, concerned with his craft and shows great undersatnding of Keats at work as a professional writer and not some idle dreamer of the romantic myth.

The Complete Poems edited by John Barnard, (Penguin 3rd. ed.) it goes without saying, is still (I think) the definitive one volume, affordable edition of the poems, and has a detailed commentary and a helpful classical dictionary for those unschooled in the Greek and Roman mythology so prevalent in Keats' work.

For an excellent one volume edition of Keats best work check out The Major Works, edited by Elizabeth Cook (Oxford 2001) which not only has authoritive texts of all the major poems, but a very valuable and comprehensive collection of the letters which is an excellent introduction to Keats own self-criticsm ,which has made his letters justly celebrated as perhaps the best letters of an English poet.

For contemporary reactions to Keats see Shelley's Adonais (wonderful poem, but a bit too sycophantic) and Byron's grossly misjudged 'Who killed John Keats?'. Also you should read Hazzlit's seminal 'Spirit of the Age' which gives a contemporary critics' view of Keats and other poets, and for a friend's recollections read Leigh Hunt's 'Lord Byron and Some of his Contemporaries' for the beginnings of the popular Keats myths.

This is all just for beginners, I am no Keats expert, but all these works will give you much more detailed bibliographies for more in-depth literary criticism by 'accredited' critics. On the question of how to write a thesis, I think it's essential to choose a particular question or aspect of the work that you are REALLY interested in (you will have to put up with it for a long time!) and just read as much as you can before writing anything.

As Keats himself said:
"I have an idea that a Man might pass a very pleasant life in this manner - let him on any certain day read a certain Page full of Poesy or distilled Prose and let him wander with it, and muse upon it, and reflect from it, and bring home to it, and prophesy upon it, and dream upon it - until it becomes stale - but when will it do so? Never - When man has arrived at a certain ripeness in intellect any one grand and spiritual passage serves him as a starting post towards 'The two- and thirty Pallaces'". (Sic)

I hope this will be a good starting post if you are new to Keats and I wish you all the best in tackling the 'Cliff of Poesy'.
"Oh what a misery it is to have an intellect in splints".
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