This essay explores why so many nineteenth-century British writers and artists reimagined the biblical figure of Ruth, beginning with Keats’s "Ode to a Nightingale," which surprisingly depicts Ruth as “sick for home… amid the alien corn.” It also considers works by Felicia Hemans, Thomas Hood, John Adams-Acton, and Grace Aguilar that follow in Keats’s wake but have received little scholarly attention. I argue that Keats shaped a new representational tradition in which Ruth becomes a figure of alienation and homesickness. In doing so, Keats departs from the Bible but aligns with contemporaneous anxieties about psychological, national, religious, and even racial otherness.
Israel Zangwill (1864-1926) was a literary celebrity, a Zionist, and a suffrage activist, and, in his time, possibly the best-known Jewish writer in the Anglophone world. His 1892 novel Children of the Ghetto became a British and American bestseller; in 1908 his play The Melting-Pot argued for the value of immigration and provided future studies of ethnicity with a much-debated metaphor. By the middle of the twentieth century, however, Zangwill’s fame had declined, and his best-known work of fiction was likely The King of Schnorrers (1894), a short novel that solidified his fame as a Jewish humorist. In fact, however, this comedic work that Zangwill published in a volume of “grotesques and fantasies” embeds some of his most trenchant social criticism and satire. Indeed, The King of Schnorrers presents in a subtle and palatable form radical ideas of economic justice that Zangwill always saw as Jewish.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Loving, Laughing, and Accepting in the Anthropocene; or, How It Feels to Teach Romanticism at the End of the World
This essay explores how the feeling of living in the Anthropocene and its strange temporality affects how we teach, and specifically how we teach Romanticism. Teaching without a solid sense of futurity—the reigning affective state of our current moment—cuts at the core of pedagogical practice. Drawing on a recent experience of teaching an undergraduate-level course in Romanticism with a focus on “The Failures of Romanticism,” I suggest that Romantic-era texts can offer models of feeling appropriate to the affective experience of living amidst global ecological catastrophe, and maybe help us fail together better. When teaching without a future we must combine our melancholic embrace of vulnerability with other affective modes; in this essay I propose we imbue our Anthropocenic pedagogy with love, acceptance, and humor.
Media Adaptations and Ecocritical Perspectives in the Anthropocene: Teaching Wordsworth’s Written in Germany, On One of the Coldest Days of the Century
This essay outlines a media adaptation exercise instructors can use to investigate the role of the Romantic subject or the lyric “I” in this latest phase of geological time, the Anthropocene. As a test case, it focuses on the overlooked lyrical ballad, Wordsworth’s "Written in Germany." It explores terms for analyzing media and media adaptations in the classroom. It investigates how media adaptations can lay bare the rhetoric of the first-person perspective and the philosophical implications of the self’s relationship to nature. Last, it situates the Romantic-era subject within a broader historical and ecological context, and it considers the centered, first-person perspective in relation to marginalized perspectives and the “view from nowhere.” The essay concludes with the importance of allowing shifting perspectives to migrate across multiple media.