The Dark Passages of Mediation and Giving Up Hyperion
The fourth chapter proposes a new way to read Keats’s most famous letters and his two fragmentary attempts at epic, Hyperion (1819–1820). There is a major, although overlooked, dissonance throughout Keats’s letters and poetry. On the one hand, they dramatize his wish for rapid, intuitive communication between individuals at a distance, a fantasy fueled by the period’s advancements in telegraphy. On the other, Keats’s writing reveals a commitment to laborious, meandering reading—a mode of encouraged by the densely figurative poetic language of the literary tradition that he idolizes, and which has its origins in the allegorical language of scripture and the rhetorical concept of ductus. Ranging over Keats’s letters as well as different moments from his verse, this chapter culminates in a reading of Hyperion. The discordance between Keats’s two tendencies or “ways”—rapid transmission and slow reading—precipitates the impasses that prevent him from continuing Hyperion.
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