Paradoxical solitude in the life, letters, and poetry of John Keats, 1814-1818
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This thesis proposes two distinct but connected ideas: that John Keats’s idiom of friendship was haunted by “sequestered” longings and that he ultimately valued specific, one-on-one partnerships as a basis for his poetical character. The Introduction places the thesis within its critical context and outlines “paradoxical solitude,” a concept the poet expressed by joining a “kindred spirit” in a wilderness retreat in “O, Solitude.” I begin by examining the evolving role of solitude in Keats’s literary predecessors (Chapter I). I then trace the development of ideas of creativity and solitude from his 1814-1815 verse, including his first association with a coterie and the influence of Wordsworth (Chapter II). Building on these findings, I explore the poet’s introduction to the Hunt circle in 1816, assessing his relationships with its members and their overstated roles in the production of Poems (Chapter III). I then discuss how Keats regarded the composition of Endymion in 1817 as a poetic “test,” specifically tailored to reinforce his identity as a solitary poet (Chapter IV). I contend that Keats engaged in a dialogue of independence with Reynolds, adapted the theories of Hazlitt, and restlessly travelled throughout England as a means of rejecting the highly social periods of 1818 (Chapter V). I then consider the creative gains of his northern expedition with Brown in the summer of 1818. I argue that Keats exaggerated his development into a “post-Wordsworthian” poet, positioning himself outside both the coterie’s sphere and the reach of Blackwood’s criticism, and inspiring the theme of Hyperion (Chapter VI). In closing, I analyze Keats’s advice to Shelley to be a selfish creator of his poetic identity. Only through paradoxical solitude, I argue, was Keats able to construct the poetic identity that led him to compose the poems on which his fame rests in the 1820 volume.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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