JOHN KEATS (1795-1821)
* He’s the forerunner of the English aestheticism.
* Member of the Second generation of Romantic poets who blossomed early and died young. He is Romantic in his relish of sensation, his feeling for the Middle Ages, his love for the Greek civilization and his conception of the writer. He was able to fuse the romantic passion and the cold Neo-classicism, just as Ugo Foscolo did in “LE GRAZIE” and in “I SEPOLCRI”. * He was born in London; he attended a private school in Enfield; he attended also at the early deaths of his father (killed in a riding accident), his mother and his brother (of tuberculosis). * He became a surgeon but six years later he decided to leave the profession and announced in the sonnet “ON FIRST LOOKING INTO CHAPMAN’S HOMER” his decision to devote his life to writing verse . * His mother and brother died because of TB and his ever-frail health deteriorated rapidly following a walking tour to the Highlands (Scotland). * He fell in love with Fanny Brawne but poverty and his bad health made marriage impossible. * The symptoms of consumption became evident; in 1820 he travelled to Italy in an effort to recover his health but died in Rome of tuberculosis in 1821. He was buried in the Protestant cemetery in Rome. * There is some deeply felt personal experience behind the ODES of 1819, but the significant fact is that this experience is “behind” the odes, not their substance. * The poetical personal pronoun “I” does not stand for a human being linked to the events of his time, but for a universal one. * He remarks: “Scenery is fine, but human nature is finer” The common Romantic tendency to identify scenes and landscapes with subjective moods and emotions is rarely present in his poetry It has nothing of the Wordsworth pantheistic conviction, and no sense of mystery. * He’s a Romantic poet thanks to his belief in the supreme value of imagination. IMAGINATION:
- the world of his poetry is predominantly artificial (one that he imagines); - his poetry comes from imagination in sense that a great deal of his work is a vision of what he would like human life to be, stimulated by his own experience of pain and misery. * BEAUTY: What strikes his imagination most is beauty; he feels a disinterested love for beauty that differentiates him from the other Romantic writers (“Art for Art’s sake”). The contemplation of beauty is the central theme in Keats’s poetry. It is mainly the Classical Greek world that inspires Keats. The expression of beauty is the ideal of all art. The world of Greek beliefs lives again in his verse, recreated and re-interpreted with the eyes of a Romantic. His first contact with beauty proceeds from the senses, from the concrete physical sensations. All the senses, as in Wordsworth’s poetry, are involved in this process. This “physical beauty” is caught in all the forms nature acquires; but beauty can also produce a much deeper experience of joy, which introduces a sort of “spiritual beauty” that is one of love, friendship and poetry. * Keats indentifies BEAUTY and TRUTH as the only type of knowledge, as he affirms in the two last lines of “ODE ON A GRECIAN URN”.
MARY SHELLEY (1797-1851)
* Her parents had been heavily influenced by the ideas of the French Revolution and were part of a small radical group. * Her child house (Godwin’s) was visited by some of the most famous writers of the day, like the Romantic poets Samuel Coleridge and Percy Bysshe Shelley. * Shelley was immediately attracted by the young Mary Godwin; in 1814 the couple fled to France and later they decided to rent a country house on the banks of Lake Geneva near Villa Diodati. It was there that the writing of “FRANKENSTEIN” took place. * In 1816 Mary Shelley began to write her famous novel, which was published anonymously in 1818. * In 1822 the Shelleys moved to Lerici, Percy died in a storm; Mary returned to England in 1823 where she...
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