Beauty and Truth in Regency Britain
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Chapter 5 reads “Ode on a Grecian Urn” in the context of Robert Benjamin Haydon’s theories about art and in light of Regency notions of “beauty” and “truth” as hallmarks of artistic accomplishment. This redefined historical context allows for an interpretation of “Grecian Urn” that demotes readings stressing the text’s ironic conclusion: the urn, construed as a dramatic character, is generalizing merely about the “now” of aesthetic experience. Read contextually, “Grecian Urn” discloses both Keats’s appreciation of art’s historically grounded powers of constructing community and, sadly, its obverse cultural marginalization in modern Britain.