John Keats's medical notebook and the poet's career : an editorial, critical and biographical reassessment
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This thesis explores the significance of John Keats’s medical Notebook, and his time at Guy’s Hospital (October 1815 – March 1817), for the poet’s career. As a primary contribution, it offers a new transcription of Keats’s medical Notebook (Appendix 1). The transcription reproduces Keats’s text and indicates the layout of his notes, but is neither a facsimile, nor a new edition: the visual form of Keats’s notes is not reproduced, nor do I offer critical annotations; commentary follows in subsequent chapters. The achievements, limitations and influence of the only edition of Keats’s medical Notebook — Maurice Buxton Forman’s from 1934 — are the subject of the first chapter, which also considers accounts of Keats’s medical career in Keats biography and criticism. Chapter two focuses on the poems Keats wrote while at Guy’s to show that the two aspects of his life — medicine and poetry — were mutually influential. Chapter three considers Keats’s medical notes in comparison to a fellow-student’s, indicating how some characteristics of Keats’s note-taking prefigure aspects of his mature poetry. Chapter four finds Endymion suffused with medical knowledge and imagery, and argues that this was a vital aspect of the poem’s depiction of passion. Chapter five suggests that the publication of Keats’s 1820 volume was greatly influenced by questions of health, medicine, and disease; concerns reflected by the poems in it, which also reveal the extent of Keats’s continued awareness of, and interest in, contemporary medical thought. In sum, the thesis argues that the origins of Keats’s poetic achievement can be traced in his medical Notebook and ‘hospital’ poems, and that the ability to infuse his poetry with medical knowledge was a vital component of Keats’s poetic power and achievement.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: Electronic copy restricted until 9th February 2021
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations