Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This dissertation is an exploration of Keats's poems and letters with an eye to discovering his attitude toward the viability of poetry in a post-Lockean universe. Keats's concern with the subjective limitations of imagination in the face of scientific advancement in his time and its effects on his poetry are thus its subject.;The Echo and Narcissus myth, as it relates to the reflexive imagery in Keats's work, is used as a paradigm of the Lockean split between reflection and sensation and its relation to the poetic process. Certain motifs related to Keats's reflexive imagery are then examined, including the motifs of reflection and repetition, the iconic motif, and the themes of error, frustrated love, and death in beauty. The imagery leads to a discussion of the problem of action in poetry, its relation to poetic predecessors, its changing views of the interaction of mind and matter, and the gap between word and image, voice and vision. Reflexive imagery thus shows Keats's attempt to come to terms with the problems of aesthetic distance, by moving towards a poetry of allegorical difference, rather than symbolic correspondence.;Keats's work is seen to fall into stages: Endymion and Isabella represent poetry which aims at a loss of self in oblivion; Hyperion and The Eve of St. Agnes show Keats's attempts at "disinterested" poetry; The Fall of Hyperion and Lamina are meant to be self-conscious explorations of the split consciousness; and the odes represent Keats's final acceptance of, and submission to, the strictures of subjectivity.;Keats's reflexive imagery shows his movement towards poetry devoted to the exploration of identity and human consciousness in temporality. As Keats writes: "providence subdues the mightiest Minds to the service of the time being." His poetic development exemplifies his own adherence to this axiom.



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