The Keats Effects

How is the image of Keats “constellated,” as Walter Benjamin might say, in the romanticisms of our contemporary popular culture? This essay attempts to answer that question by exploring the “Keats effects” or what the poet Frank O’Hara calls “Keatsness”: the particular pulses of his poetic and cultural charge, at the charged moment of his own popularity in and outside his circle and as his poems and images have entered the currency of our own contemporary cultural discourses, what biographers of Romantic poets like to call our “popular imagination.” This essay pursues two discursive strains of the Keats effects: on the one hand, the distinctively Keatsian cocktail of outsider and outsized Cockney ambitions, restless experimentation with revered and popular forms, artistic and poetic allusions, complete with devoted fans and fiercely reactionary enemies; and on the other hand, the indelible and affecting record of personal pathos, the doomed poet whose fragile beauty is inseparable from the poems themselves, their making, their reception, and the fate of their maker. I consider how both of these Keats effects posit modes of impossibility that remain impossibly beautiful.

This Living Hand: Bright Star and the Etsy Effect

This essay argues that the Keats portrayed in Jane Campion’s Bright Star is a product of the twenty-first century’s Etsy culture—and that this portrayal, if somewhat surprising or even counterintuitive, effectively captures Keats’s understanding of the relationship between poetic making and imperfection. The paper both compares Keats’s presence on the handicraft-marketing platform Etsy.com to his characterization in Campion’s hand-centric film and identifies the ways in which the Keats of contemporary popular culture has become an appealing and textually reasonable model for entrepreneurial crafters and other aspiring artisans.

Response: Keats Out of Bounds

This brief response essay attempts to capture the overarching themes and sentiments of this collection while also commenting on the scope of popular culture in general and noting how gender might inflect a discussion of Keats’s contemporary relevance.

Introduction: Keats in Between

This essay reflects on Keats’s crossover success as a hyper-canonical and popular poet for contemporary middle-brow readers, contextualizes scholarly discourses about his poetry’s longstanding (and often vexed) connections with popular culture, and introduces the essays in Keats in Popular Culture, which investigate popular culture artifacts and mediums as well as popular literature involving Keats. "Keats in Between" recalls three longstanding embarrassments for teachers and scholars of literary history—popular culture, media, and affect—which routinely have been defined in opposition to (while continuing to inform) the high canon of English literature, and it posits Keats’s two-hundred year reception history as an exemplary case for examining popular culture as a generative, shape-shifting borderland where liking/loving and responding to literature intermingles, sometimes indistinguishably, the tastes of the people and the elite.

Quoting Keats

This essay traces aspects of Keats’s legacy across popular culture through instances and mechanisms of quoting (or misquoting) his work. The essay begins in periodical culture soon after Keats’s death (the late 1820s and early 1830s), then moves to the discourse around the Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition in 1857 (which, I suggest somewhat speculatively, intersects with Keats in striking ways around quoting), and concludes with a bigger leap ahead in time, to contemporary practices of quoting Keats through various internet technologies and platforms. In each case the opening line to Endymion (“A thing of beauty is a joy for ever”) serves as the focal point around which the networked connections of quoting practices and Keats’s posthumous life circulate. Ultimately, the essay contends that a history of Keats’s varied emanations across and through popular culture must of necessity be a history of mediation, and the essay models a way of enacting that kind of work.

Reading Keats Together: Cleanth Brooks and the Collegiate Public

This essay considers Keats’s unique appeal to the New Critics of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. It returns to a landmark in American literary studies—Cleanth Brooks’s study of Keats’s "Ode on a Grecian Urn"—drawing on Brooks’s unpublished personal and professional papers to place his work in the context of mid-century disciplinary and methodological changes. At a time when greater access to American higher education created what we might call a “classroom public” for poetry, Brooks’s study of Keats advocates for and models the close, collective reading of poetry, idealistically figuring the university classroom as a site of social inclusion while also summoning the conservative historical fantasies associated with Southern Agrarianism.

Introduction: Living through Human Trumpery through Romanticism

This introduction shows how this volume crafts an intersectional Romantic pedagogy of resistance to human-made climate change in the Anthropocene. Such a pedagogy rejects ideas about “humans as one unified species” and seeks instead a dialogue between race, class, gender, sexuality, nonhumans, and queer alignments, among others. The introduction also features short descriptions of each essay.

Tweet tweet jug jug: Learning to Listen in the Romantic Anthropocene

This essay reflects on the experience of teaching Romantic bird poetry through the lens of our current anthropogenic environmental crises. In particular, it considers how we can not only read but also hear Romantic poetry anew as an undulating constellation murmuring beneath the Anthropocene, particularly as birdsong is in the process of disappearing as climate change threatens mass avian extinction. It explores how we might attend to those bird sounds and silences in poetry by Smith, Coleridge, Keats, and Clare in light of this impending silence. I describe the lesson in detail, which begins with students giving an account of their lives among our wasted environments (on local and global levels) before moving into the Romantic past. I frame this backward pedagogical approach through the rhetorical figure of hysteron proteron (temporal inversion). The lesson chiefly aims to cultivate a sonic sensibility, one that makes students better listening subjects attuned to sonic changes in their environments. It accomplishes this by pairing select poems about the nightingale with a contemporary digital sound sculpture that makes bird sound audible and visible. Developing a method of “close listening,” a model of acoustic intimacy that requires becoming attentive to the layers of ubiquitous sounds, I frame listening as an act of turning us outward, one that makes us more perceptually aware citizens of the Anthropocene.

The Last Sex on Earth: Teaching Mary Wollstonecraft and Lucy Corin in the Anthropocene

This essay takes two experimental forms, both of which are meant to exemplify what I call “hyper-jump pedagogy.” The first form tracks backward, reading sex and gender in the work of Lucy Corin’s One Hundred Apocalypses, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road to where the course began, the works of Mary Wollstonecraft and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, before lurching forward to Wall-E, where the course ended. The second essay form uses the Romantic Circles Pedagogy Commons Drupal platform to generate a random version of the essay with paragraphs disarranged. Both forms demonstrate how temporality in the Anthropocene disorients and defamiliarizes our beliefs about our place in relation to time. This disorientation and defamiliarization leads to a reconsideration of reproduction as it relates to sex, gender, and the family.

Tiptoeing through Keats: Teaching Queer Ecology in the Anthropocene

In this article, I present a way of teaching John Keats’s "I stood tip-toe upon a little hill" and Endymion (amongst other Romantic-era poetical and prose works) as queerly ecological and as useful components of a pedagogical paradigm serviceable to those wishing to discuss environmental issues in the Anthropocene. The article shows the interdependencies of earthiness and eroticism in two short poems by Keats who was, as I argue, not simply a sensualist but a subversive nature poet that imbued the environment with erotic energy and promoted the conservationist practice of tiptoeing as the best way of feeling the earth beneath one’s feet. It then examines how Endymion, with its well-known “Pleasure Thermometer” passage, enacts a queer ecology that resonates in instructive ways vis-à-vis Timothy Morton’s theorization of “the mesh.” The texts discussed here provide an instruction manual for scholars and teachers investigating nineteenth-century depictions of interdependencies in the natural world and human sexuality in a current Anthropocene that threatens the futures of both of these phenomena.