Keats, myth, and the science of sympathy
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This essay considers the connections between myth and sympathy in Keats’s poetic theory and practice. It argues that the ‘Ode to Psyche’ exemplifies the way in which Keats uses mythological narrative, and the related trope of apostrophe, to promote a restrained form of sympathy, which preserves an objectifying distance between the poet and the feelings that his poetry examines. This model of sympathy is informed by Keats’s medical training: the influential surgeon Astley Cooper and The Hospital Pupil’s Guide (1816) both identify a sensitive but restrained sympathy for patients’ suffering as an essential part of the scientific and professional methods of nineteenth-century medicine. However, while The Hospital Pupil’s Guide claims that mythological superstition has been superseded in medicine by positivist science, Keats’s ode suggests that myth retains a central role in poetry, as the foundation of a poetic method that mediates between imaginative sympathy and objective impartiality.
Tate , G P 2016 , ' Keats, myth, and the science of sympathy ' Romanticism , vol 22 , no. 2 , pp. 191-202 . DOI: 10.3366/rom.2016.0274
© Edinburgh University Press. This work is made available online in accordance with the publisher’s policies. This is the author created, accepted version manuscript following peer review and may differ slightly from the final published version. The final published version of this work is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/rom.2016.0274
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