Advertisement

‘The Feel of Not to Feel It’: The Life of Non-sensation in Keats

  • Stuart CurranEmail author
Chapter
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine book series (PLSM)

Abstract

Throughout his writing, Keats evinces a double consciousness as a trained medical student, at the top of his class at the Borough Medical School, and as a poet concerned with states of perception. In both cases, he evinces an obsessive concern with the oxymoronic life of non-sensation. In his medical praxis, Keats was confronted with various stages of paralysis as well as what one of his teachers defined as apparent death. As a poet, Keats depicts an entire medical ward of paralytics in the fallen titans of Hyperion, and he begins a lifelong exploration of suspended animation as a mental state in ‘To My Brother George’ and ‘Sleep and Poetry’ in the 1817 volume. The reverie of those poems, however, is increasingly focused, in Endymion, the ‘Hyperion’ poems and ‘La Belle Dame‘, on psychological inanition. With the Odes, finally, Keats explores an oxymoronic universe in which life and death are conceptually intertwined, as they would have been throughout Keats's medical experience.

Works Cited

  1. Abernethy, John, Surgical Observations (London, 1804).Google Scholar
  2. de Almeida, Hermione, Romantic Medicine and John Keats (New York and London, 1991).Google Scholar
  3. Barnard, John, ‘“The Busy Time”: Keats’s Duties at Guy’s Hospital from Autumn 1816 to March 1817’, Romanticism, 13.3 (2007).Google Scholar
  4. Bell, Benjamin, A System of Surgery (6 vols, Edinburgh, 1791).Google Scholar
  5. Burkey, Adam, ‘Parkinson’s Shaking Palsy: The “Aspen-Malady” of John Keats’, Keats-Shelley Journal, 52 (2008).Google Scholar
  6. Cooper, Astley Paston, The Lectures of Sir Astley Cooper, Bart. F.R.S. Surgeon to the King &c &c on the Principles and Practice of Surgery, with Additional Notes and Cases, by Frederick Tyrell, Esq. (3 vols, Boston, MA, 1825).Google Scholar
  7. Curry, James, Observations on Apparent Death from Drowning, Hanging, Suffocation by Noxious Vapours, Fainting-Fits, Intoxication, Lightning, Exposure to Cold, &c. &c (London, 1815).Google Scholar
  8. Darwin, Erasmus, Zoonomia; or, The Laws of Organic Life (2nd edn, 2 vols, London, 1796).Google Scholar
  9. Gigante, Denise, Life: Organic Form and Romanticism (New Haven and London, 2009).Google Scholar
  10. Goellnicht, Donald C., The Poet-Physician: Keats and Medical Science (Pittsburgh, PA, 1984).Google Scholar
  11. Gray, Robert, Theory of Dreams (2 vols, London, 1808).Google Scholar
  12. Iseli, Markus, Thomas De Quincey and the Cognitive Unconscious (Basingstoke and New York, 2015).Google Scholar
  13. Keats, John, John Keats’s Anatomical and Physiological Note Book, ed. Maurice Buxton Forman (1934; New York, 1970).Google Scholar
  14. ———, The Keats Circle: Letters and Papers 1816–1878 and More Letters and Poems 1814–1879, ed. Hyder Edward Rollins (2nd edn, 2 vols, Cambridge, MA, 1965).Google Scholar
  15. ———, The Letters of John Keats 1814–1821, ed. Hyder Edward Rollins (2 vols, Cambridge, MA, 1958 rpt. 1972).Google Scholar
  16. ———, The Poems of John Keats, ed. Jack Stillinger (London, 1978).Google Scholar
  17. Latta, James, A Practical System of Surgery (3 vols, Edinburgh, 1793).Google Scholar
  18. Mitchell, Robert, Experimental Life: Vitalism in Romantic Science and Literature (Baltimore, 2013).Google Scholar
  19. Parr, Bartholomew, London Medical Dictionary (2 vols, London, 1809).Google Scholar
  20. Richardson, Alan, British Romanticism and the Science of the Mind (Cambridge, 2001).Google Scholar
  21. Roe, Nicholas, ‘Dressing for Art: Notes from Keats in the Emergency Ward’, TLS (27 May 2015).Google Scholar
  22. ———, John Keats and the Culture of Dissent (Oxford, 1997).Google Scholar
  23. ———, John Keats: A New Life (New Haven and London, 2012).Google Scholar
  24. Rushton, Sharon, Shelley and Vitality (Basingstoke and New York, 2005).Google Scholar
  25. Saunders, William, Elements of the Practice of Physic, for the Use of Those Students Who Attend the Lectures Read on This Subject at Guy’s Hospital (London, 1798).Google Scholar
  26. de Sauvages, Francois Boissier, Nosologia Methodica (Tournes, 1763).Google Scholar
  27. Sinclair, A. G., Artis Medicinae (London, 1798).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

Personalised recommendations