Date of Award
Keats’s poetry on Classical relics invokes the tradition of ekphrasis, a rhetorical device that indicates a verbal representation of an artwork. While critics have explored the symbolic, often gendered, implications of these poetic exhibitions, they pay less attention to the relics’ physicality. By using ekphrasis as a lens through which to emphasize the corporeal artworks in Keats’s poems, this paper reveals each relic’s condition to be that of a dysfunctional memorial and explores their poetic implications as such. For Keats, even their visibly in-tact features have become less decipherable over time, their meaning lost along with the context of ancient Greece. I frame my analysis around three main poems or “art exhibits,” if you will, that correspond to the three sections of this paper: “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” “On Seeing the Elgin Marbles,” and The Fall of Hyperion. In each “exhibit,” I demonstrate the artworks’ unrecognizable state as well as their connection to Keats’s anxiety over failing to be remembered. Ultimately, this paper aims to generate not only a better understanding of Keats and ekphrasis, but also of what it means to be a forgotten work of art.
Kneisley, John Anderson, "“A Shadow of a Magnitude”: The Condition of Artwork in John Keats’s Ekphrastic Poetry" (2016). Dickinson College Honors Theses. Paper 254.