A Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year
A renowned Keats scholar illuminates the poet’s extraordinary career, in a new edition featuring seventy-eight verse selections with commentary.
John Keats’s career as a published poet spanned scarcely more than four years, cut short by his death early in 1821 at age twenty-five. Yet in this time, he produced a remarkable—and remarkably wide-ranging—body of work that has secured his place as one of the most influential poets in the British literary tradition. Celebrated Keats scholar Susan J. Wolfson presents seventy-eight selections from his work, each accompanied by a commentary on its form, style, meanings, and relevant contexts.
In this edition, readers will rediscover a virtuoso poet, by turns lively, experimental, self-ironizing, outrageous, and philosophical. Wolfson includes such well-known favorites as Ode to a Nightingale, Ode on a Grecian Urn, To Autumn, La Belle Dame sans Merci, and The Eve of St. Agnes, as well as less familiar poems, several in letters to family and friends never meant for publication. Her selections redefine the breadth and depth of Keats’s poetic imagination, from intellectual jests and satires to erotic bandying, passionate confessions, and reflections on mortality.
The selections, presented in their order of composition, convey a chronicle of Keats’s artistic and personal evolution. Wolfson’s revealing commentaries unfold the lively complexities of his verbal arts and stylistic experiments, his earnest goals and nervous apprehensions, and the pressures of politics and literary criticism in his day. In critically attentive and conversational prose, Wolfson encourages us to experience Keats in the way that he himself imagined the language of poetry: as a living event, a cooperative experience shared between author and reader.
Wolfson’s commentaries offer ‘tutorials’…in how to savour Keats’s poetry, arousing the sort of intense appetite that Keats felt for Homer. Each commentary is an immersion in language and effect, thickened by attention to a web of references…As a ‘series of close encounters’, A Greeting of the Spirit lends itself to browsing; the reader can drop in on her commentaries, skip and re-read them with pleasure.
Destined to become required reading for all Keats lovers, students, and scholars…Wolfson writes beautifully and with infectious delight for her subject.
Wolfson serves a tempting selection of Keats’s poetry…Nothing—no sound, no pun, no pattern, no definition, no idiom, no punctuation mark, no part of speech, no poetic genre, no etymological possibility—is beyond probing and parsing, nuancing and scrutinizing; word roots are rooted out, marginalia is never marginal; the intertextual is necessarily contextualized; and variants are never unconsidered. Literary histories mesh with deep, formalistic insights and are easefully worked into and then through biographical observations—whatever it takes to get the most out of a poem.
Susan Wolfson offers a series of superb commentaries on Keats’s poems, opening up the verbal energies, complexities, peculiarities, and imaginative capacities of his writing. This book is an invitation for us all to read and reread Keats, accompanied by one of his most brilliant modern critics, who reveals him as a poet for everyone ready to be enchanted by genius.
A generous, expertly chosen selection of Keats's greatest poems, accompanied by commentaries which are learned and lithe, brilliantly perceptive, extraordinarily informative, and infectiously full of delight. Really, you could not imagine a better companion to guide you through these endlessly marvelous poems.
Wolfson’s is the book on Keats: a stirring feat of participatory stylistic insight and creative empathy. The rare idiomatic flair of her prose brings back Keats, man and craftsman, in his historical and mortal moment, tracked through impeccably re-estimated verses. With no stone left unturned, even settled gems are rubbed more brilliant by context. Metaphor, metrics, textual history, notes in Keats’s margins and letters, his inexhaustible word play, his philosophical ruminations on the horizons of poetry: all the varied facets of genius and aspiration are seen together in their glinting refraction as never before.
A fine selection of Keats’s work, richly analyzed and contextualized by a scholar whose formal attention to detail brings poetry to life on the page. Wolfson guides the reader step by step through both the best-loved and least-known of Keats’s poems, in an anthology that also becomes an enjoyable and thought-provoking tutorial.
Susan Wolfson’s A Greeting of the Spirit generously tracks Keats’s ‘experiments with words,’ exercising the depth and breadth of her expertise to make his verses newly available to readers. Her commentaries, fresh and incisive, invite us to participate in the poet’s heady way of concentrating the resources of language.
- 480 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Belknap Press
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