Indifference and Epistolarity in The Eve of St. Agnes

Gray, Erik I.

For I believe that The Eve of St. Agnes is, in its hybrid nature, the most epistolary poem of the Romantic period. I therefore begin my discussion with an exploration of the dark or ‘indifferent’ side of letter-writing. I then examine
Keats’s letters and their willingness to submit to their own limitations as a form
of consolation or self-defense. Finally I turn to The Eve of St. Agnes and other
poems which are all, by Keats’s own account, ‘unpoetical’ because of their
incorporation of epistolary methods. By writing poems the way he wrote letters
– that is, by having recourse to submission and evasion just when one would
expect an imaginative or ‘metaphysical’ climax – Keats opened up poetry to a
realm of experience it had previously excluded.


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Academic Units
English and Comparative Literature
Edinburgh University Press
Published Here
May 7, 2015