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UBC Theses and Dissertations

John Keats the poet as mythmaker : a study in the theory and composition of mythological poetry Blott, Stewart Gordon


This thesis is a study in the theory and composition of mythological poetry in the work of John Keats. This subject Is introduced in chapter I with an examination of the “Ode to Psyche.” The argument of the Ode Is Important for its definition of the poet as a mythmaker and its equation of poetry and Myth. Chapter II consists of definitions of mythological poetry and myth. Mythological poetry includes poems which merely allude or refer to myth poems which reproduce received myth, poems which reinterpret and revitalize inert myth, and poems which are original creations of myth. Myth is defined as a verbal construction having special significance as a way of defining the relationship between man and his environment through the creation of the supernatural by projecting the human form upon the inhuman world which has personal, social, and universal relevance, and may be the composition of an individual, in this case Keats; and in which, in accordance with their special significance, the narrative or theme, the characters, action, time, setting and form are stylized or archetypal. In chapter III, I examine the Intellectual context in which Keats formed his conceptions of poetry and myth and composed his mythological poetry. Influences on, and correspondences to Keats’ theory and practice are identified in a historical survey of the theories and practices of his predecessors and contemporaries, and with some reference to Keats’ biography. Chapter IV If consists of an examination of Keats’ theoretical approach to poetry and myth. Considering Keats’ poems and letters as theoretical statements only, I illustrate the correspondences between his concept of poetry and the definition of myth which I made in chapter II. Keats writings also contain explicit identifications of poetry and myth and the poets that Keats most admired are composers of mythological poetry. Keats laments the passing of the golden age of poetry, but he offers his own poetry as a substitution for the works of the vanished golden age. He has declared that poetry is myth and that he, himself, will be a mythmaker. In chapter V I conclude my thesis with a demonstration of Keats' development as a mythmaker through an examination of some of his mythological poetry. This development is an alteration from his early and derivative references to inert myth, through increasingly original reproductions and Interpretations of received myth, to a final approach to the original creation of vital myth in the "Ode to Autumn.”

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