The negatively capable reader: performative language in Keat's Odes of 1819
LE3 .A278 2006
Master of Arts
English & Theatre Studies
John Keats's "Negative Capability" is a state in which an artist achieves an imaginative openness of mind and a heightened sense of reality without rationalizing this condition or striving for the resolution of conflicting ideas. The objective of this thesis is to reveal that Keats's Odes of 1819 can be read as an attempt to extend such capability to his readers. Close readings of the Odes reveal that the language of the poems is performative. The series changes its readers in an essential way by attempting to transfer to them the capacity to experience an indeterminate state. However, only in "Ode on a Grecian Urn" is performative language successful in its intent. In each of the other poems in the series, the language strives, but ultimately fails, to lead the reader to the ideal position of Negative Capability. The irony of the fact that uncertainty is successfully achieved through an ode that focuses on an artificial aesthetic object rather than a natural element is noted. This performative phenomenon lacks the popularity of Wordsworth's egotism, but anticipates Keats's influence on Aestheticism.
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