Keats, Ecocriticism and the Poetics of Place

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The poetry of place is usually thought of as a form of nature writing imbued in the material and local, contrasting themes and motifs of the literary convention with authenticity and concretion. John Keats tends, on the contrary, to be associated with the attempt to escape materiality, favoring instead the artificial blessings of imagination. Unsurprisingly, few ecocritical studies have taken an interest in a larger part of his oeuvre. As this study argues, however, Keats’s reflections on the conditions of imagination do in fact point to the material grounding of the self in the world. In this regard, his work reveals an unlikely field of ecological inquiry – actualizing with special pregnancy Martin Heidegger’s thinking on place, as it is theorized in the latter’s conceptions of dwelling. Heidegger continues to hold an important position in ecocritical discourse, primarily on account of his imperative to “save the earth” in a 1954 essay. Discussing Heidegger in connection with Keats, though, may on the one hand serve as a reminder of the later essay’s larger philosophical context, and, on the other, point to the dangers of appropriating Heidegger’s own Romanticism in the study of Romantic literature. As a conclusion, and in the extension of these reflections, I will attempt to trace another aspect of Keats’s ambivalent relation to the natural world, hereby charting the possibilities of Romantic studies beyond this potential fallacy. If the initial investigation into the mind’s dwelling takes aim at the primary domain of the subject, I here intend to sketch the principal coordinates of its margins: namely, the site of the self’s destabilizing and effacement in the world of living things.


  • Peter Henning
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • General Literature Studies
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-427
JournalStudies in Romanticism
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Publication categoryResearch