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Keats as a Reader

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posted on 2021-11-10, 10:37 authored by Paterson, Alexandra

This thesis examines the poetry of John Keats through an exploration of his attitude towards reading. Keats's reading is characterized by openness, receptivity, and crucially, response. The first chapter explores the dynamics of this by analyzing some early sonnets about his reading within the greater context of this thought as he lays it out in his letters. For Keats, the poetic process, which includes both reading and writing, is an organic one. The second chapter considers his mediated reading, looking first at the Chapman's Homer sonnet as a celebration of translation and the social reading experience. This leads into a greater exploration of Keats's friendships and sociability, which are not only fundamental to him, but which also play an important role in his reading and poetry. The chapter considers the dialogue that occurs within Keats's marginalia, with his friends, and with the books and authors he reads. This dialogue illustrates Keats's positive relationship with mediation and influence. The theatre in particular is a site of sociability and adaptation, and, for Keats it is also a platform for poetic voice. The third chapter expands on the importance of the aural experience of reading for Keats, primarily through an examination of "mistiness," a term Keats uses to describe a positive mediated reading experience in a letter to John Hamilton Reynolds. Keatsian mist is a state of mind which, while obscuring one sense -usually visual - amplifies the aural sense and imagination. The fourth chapter comprises an analysis of Keats's poetry of 1819 in order to explore questioning as a creative mode of reading, and silence as an ideal site for the growth of the creative imagination. "To Autumn" presents the culmination of Keats's reading in an affirmation of his own poetic voice.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Master of Arts

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of English, Film, Theatre and Media Studies


Thomson, Heidi