It is a commonplace that Keats’s greatest works were written in 1818 and 1819, with his death following closely. How could he have achieved such mature poetic accomplishments in so short a time? What does the sequence of early sonnets tell us about the topics and techniques of the later odes? While it is useless to speculate on what he might have written had he lived longer, it may be fruitful to assess his last works as if they were the culmination of a painstaking career of poetic experiments and deep thought about the subjects, history, and goals of lyric poetry. We will start with early sonnets, next turn to major works like “The Eve of St. Agnes,” and then to the great Odes, including “To Autumn.” Assigned texts will be identified class by class.
Instructor John Ward has been professor and chair of Kenyon College (Gambier, OH) English Department and has served as Dean of Centre College (Danville, KY). He earned his B.A. from Amherst College and Ph.D. from the University of Virginia, and has taught courses in 18th- and 19th-century British literature and the history of the British novel. He has published on 18th- and 19th-century British works, as well as those of Vachel Lindsay and Robert Lowell.
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