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WatchwordsRomanticism and the Poetics of Attention$
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Lily Gurton-Wachter

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780804796958

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804796958.001.0001

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Attention’s Aches In Keats’s ‘Hyperion’ Poems

Attention’s Aches In Keats’s ‘Hyperion’ Poems

(p.141) Chapter 5 Attention’s Aches In Keats’s ‘Hyperion’ Poems

Lily Gurton-Wachter

Stanford University Press

This chapter considers the postwar pains of paying attention to another’s pain. Exemplifying an unconventional tradition from the early Romantics to Walter Benjamin that understands attention as weakening rather than strengthening the cognitive subject, Keats’s Hyperion poems explore the experience of paying attention to violence and the violence of just paying attention. Putting Keats’s fragments in the context of both the fragmented sculptures known as the Elgin Marbles and Charles Bell’s descriptions of soldiers wounded at Waterloo with amputated limbs, Keats’s fragments emerge as meditations on the strange overlap between paying attention to another’s suffering and paying attention to art. In contrast to the theory of sympathy posited by Adam Smith, for whom attention is only a preliminary step to a fuller sympathy grounded in narrative, Keats’s fragments resist the fullness of narrative and find satisfaction instead in the simple act of paying attention.

Keywords:   attention, John Keats, Simone Weil, history of medicine, Elgin Marbles, Charles Bell, pain, sympathy, fragmentation, aesthetics

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