Date of Graduation

Fall 2010


Master of Arts in English



Committee Chair

Lanya Lamouria


This study argues that John Keats is a poet whose key consideration is empathy and who possesses the ability to establish profound rapport with the readers of his poems. In order to explore this ability, the paper focuses on Keats's definition of the "poetical character”: Keats writes that the poet must have "no self,” meaning that the poet transcends ego, and also that the poet must live in "negative capability,” meaning openness to all experience. For Keats, the world is a "vale of soul-making,” in contrast to the Christian concept of a "vale of tears,” and his spiritual leanings are such that it is in "Poetry” where he finds his religion. Like others, I suggest that Keats is best understood as one whose development as a man and development as a poet are closely interwoven. My research consists of a reading of some of the appropriate scholarly literature, including three biographies of Keats. To prove my argument, I engage in a close reading and textual analysis of three of Keats's "great odes”: "Ode to a Nightingale,” "Ode on a Grecian Urn,” and "To Autumn,” with one chapter devoted to each. This paper demonstrates how Keats expresses the concepts of no self, negative capability, and the vale of soul-making in his poems through certain prosodic techniques, such as concreteness of language and a stationing technique that I call "placement.” I conclude that Keats's ability to establish rapport is a result of innate qualities that he worked to develop, and that these three odes have the power to engage the audience until rapport with the poems is virtually absolute.


John Keats, Ode to a Nightingale, Ode on a Grecian Urn, to Autumn, selflessness of the poetical character, negative capability, the vale of soul-making, empathy, rapport.

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature


© Rita Ellen Sherwin

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