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