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LIT 4930.001
Appreciating Poetry

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

Class 9

Reading Assignment:

      "O Solitude! If I must with thee dwell" p. 50
      "To George Felton Mathew" p. 50
      "To one who has been long in city pent" p. 62
      "To Charles Cowden Clarke" p. 68
      "On first looking into Chapman's Homer" p. 72

    "On first looking into Chapman's Homer" p. 72

    Class Objectives:

  • Introduce Keats as a poet
  • Consider how Keats treats the question "What is poetry?"

    The poems we will be reading this week all derive from Keats' very early period, and they address in some way the question of what poetry is. We can imagine that this was a creative and philosophical question that concerned the young poet. Take the opportunity to apply the principles learned from Perrine and Oliver to your reading of Keats' work, but also see these poems as the beginning work of a developing poet. All of the poems for this class were written before what most critics see as Keats' significant accomplishment in poetry. In our class we will be following the development of this artist and paying particular attention to his practice of poetic craft.

    Keats' Early Poems


    Familiarize yourself with Keats' biography in some way. The more ambitious among you will want to read a full-length biography, the classic one being John Keats, by Walter Jackson Bate. There is ample material available on the web and The Romantic Chronology Page may be a good place to start for historical context.

    For each of Keats' poems, analyze the use of sound. Make observations on the form (is it a sonnet? what line length? what rhyme scheme?). For at least one poem, scan the entire poem, marking meter, caesura, enjambment, etc.

    Also for each poem, make sure you read the notes that are printed in the back of the book. These will provide valuable information about biographical and literary details.

    Suggestions for reading poetry: read all the way through one time to get a sense of what the poem is about. Read the second time scanning the notes for information and trying to understand the complexity of the piece. Read a third time out loud to hear the rhythms and rhymes, etc. Read as many more times as you like or need to. POETRY NEEDS TO BE READ MORE THAN ONE TIME.


    Most of these earlier poems address the question "what is poetry?" in part because Keats was learning to become a poet and was interested in deciphering what this great endeavor truly was. In part he addressed this more philosophical question because he lacked an immediate subject to which to turn his poems.

    Of the verse epistle "To George Felton Mathew," Keats' biographer Walter Jackson Bate writes: "If it turned out to be something of a prototype for much of Keat's writing it was not through choice. When his experience failed to provide him with other subj ects, it was always possible to write about poetry itself. The limitations of doing so were obvious, and his later struggle against them is a signficant part of his development" (John Keats, New York: Oxford University Press, 1966, p. 59).


    "To Charles Cowden Clarke"

    Examine the first stanza -- what image does he develop?

    Note the number of lines, the connotations, the metaphor made explicit in line 15.

    Read stanza 3 lines 49-67. Analyze the genres of poetry he mentions. Compare them to his own formal choices.

    Read lines 68-72. Compare with the similar lines from his verse epistle to Mathew.

    Also consider the role of male friendship for Keats. In what ways are these men important to his poetry? To his poetic development?

    What form is "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer"? Why is this significant?

    In this poem Keats memorializes his literary relationship to two authors: Homer and Chapman. How are they distinct? What images does he use to convey the character of each relationship?

    Is there a turn in the poem? Why or how? What is the signficance?

    How does the poem answer the question: What is poetry?

    What is the purpose of the poem? How does it achieve it? How significant is the purpose/poem?

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