Essays in Romanticism

Rephrasing the Lyric Subject: Keats’s Dialectical Soul-Making

Essays in Romanticism (2018), 25, (1), 47–63.

Abstract

This essay brings together Keats’s theory of soul-making with his prosody in order to argue for the continued use and usefulness of the concept of lyric subjectivity. Given the instability and recent disfavor imputed to both of these terms (lyric and subject), this might seem a problematic endeavor. Yet I argue, along with Keats, that the process of constructing a soul is not only ineluctably wrapped up with the process of poetic production and reception, but also inextricably tied to the process of first imagining and then constructing new forms of sociality and subjectivity. Through an examination of M. H. Abrams’s theory of the “greater romantic lyric,” I show how a specific form of dialecticism has been read back over the entire canon of romantic and post-romantic poetry, with, as writers associated with the Historical Poetics group have pointed out, deleterious effects. Applying the post-Marxist dialectical theories of the Russian Formalists to targeted close readings of Keats’s poems and letters, I show how an alternative (dyadic) dialectic plays itself out in Keats, a prosodic and trans-subjective syncopation through which sheer repetition becomes the ground of producing difference.

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Details

Author details

Ruderman, D. B.