Keats’s Killing Breath: Paradigms of a Pathography

  • Damian Walford DaviesEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine book series (PLSM)


The nature of Keats’s understanding of the vectors of the disease that killed him, together with the range of conceptual paradigms that such knowledge (and its lack) prompted, has not been fully explored. Developing a historicised ‘pathographical’ literary criticism that identifies in Keats’s poetry and letters complex nodes of self-aware speculation—textual ‘tubercles’—concerning divergent contemporary theories of pulmonary tuberculosis, this chapter proposes that Keats’s work constitutes a clinically insightful and imaginatively exploratory contribution to medical debates concerning the aetiology of the family disease. Further, it shows how contemporary paradigms of tuberculosis presented Keats with highly serviceable, if always distressing, models that focused a range of preoccupations and anxieties such as inheritance and birthrights, individual poethood, imaginative engagement and fantasies of power. These paradigms helped him get a purchase on his biological and literary place in the world.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cardiff UniversityCardiffUK

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