Date of this Version
From the time John Keats began Endymion (March 1817) until his abandonment of the second version of Hyperion (September 1819), we have thirty vital months comprising a span of development unparalleled in English literature. This dissertation focuses upon the central feature of that development— the evolution of the creative mind of the poet. I do not purpose another factual biography of Keats, but rather an exploration of the internal autobiography of the poet in self-genesis as this evolvement is impressed upon the symbolic structures of his works. In artistic vitality, incisiveness of thought, and individual sublimity, Keats achieved a ripeness that stylistically, philosophically, and psychologically borders upon the miraculous, if the circumstances under which he labored and the short time allotted to him are considered. The areas of style and philosophy have been exhaustively explored in the past fifty years of Keats scholarship, and I will only touch upon these subjects. Walter Jackson Bate’s The Stylistic Development of Keats (1945) and Clarence Thorpe's The Mind of John Keats (1926) already offer authoritative stands in these areas. Bate’s study of the prosody and rhetoric of Keats is the best book on the poet’s stylistic development, and it clearly reveals a notable progress in his work from early lassitude and weakness to discipline and restraint in the later writing. The trend is toward fewer adjectives and more verbs as seen in the great odes and poems, and a better sense of structure complemented by finer precision of language and form, as is evident in Hyperion, which he finished in April 1819, and in The Fall of Hyperion, which was nearly the last thing he ever wrote, completed September 21, 1819. Rather than these issues involving Keats' stylistic growth, my concern is with the question of what activated his intellectual and emotional crystallization during the thirty productive months from the start of Endymion to the end of Hyperion. Of these thirty months, the period of one year, marked by the start of Hyperion in the fall of 1818 and by the end of The Fall of Hyperion in the fall of 1819, creates the greatest interest, because during that time Keats produced practically every poem that ranks him among the greatest poets of the world.
Advisor: Bernice Slote