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LIT 4930.001
Appreciating Poetry

Fall 2004
Time: Monday and Wednesday
11:00am - 12:15 pm
Room: CPR 348

Class 12

Reading Assignment: Keats' later sonnets

    "O thou whose face hath felt" (228)
    "Why did I laugh" (328)
    "To Sleep" (339)
    "If by dull rhymes" (340)
    "Bright Star" (452)

    DUE: Group B: Post 6

    Bright Star (452)

    Class Objectives:

  • Study of form -- Keats' use of the Italian and English sonnet

  • Study of imagery/texture -- move from sentimentalism and romance to a more particular and transcendant imagery

    This week we will focus on Keats' use of the sonnet, a form which he never greatly admired but which came easily to him. Through his brief career we can see his development to a distinctive style by closely analyzing these brief poems.

    Reading Notes and Discussion Questions

    Keats' Later Sonnets


    "Why did I laugh" (328) -- March 19, 1819 written over a year later after his brother Tom has died, the poem reveals Keats in a period of uncertainty. In what ways does this poem echo "When I have fears" ? Read the endnotes for Keats' response. After writing the poem he was immediately ashamed of his self-pity, but he changed his mind. How does this reflect Keats' ideas about the poet's identity?

    "To Sleep" (339) written during a period of great productivity (amid the odes) in April 1819. Compare with "Sleep and poetry" and Shakespeare's sonnets. Note his experiments with the sestet.

    "Bright Star" (452) -- date of composition is uncertain, but it relates to Keats' great love for Fanny Brawne and his conflict between love and ambition. Most date it around the time of October 1819; sometimes called the "Last sonnet" because he revised it on his final trip to Italy.

    Bate writes of this important poem: "Whatever the date, we should note something about this sonnet that reminds us, in miniature, of the structure of two of the great odes -- the "Nightingale" and, even more, the "Grecian Urn" -- whether the poem was writ ten as an anticipation or as an echo. It is that process of symbolic debate in which a dominant symbol or concept, after being postulated at the start, becomes the motif in a counterpoint of withdrawal, qualification, and partial return" (619).

    What does the star symbolize in the poem? What is the subject of debate? How is the poem resolved?

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