Date of Award
Master of Arts
The poets of the Romantic period and before learned their craft by reading poetry. John Keats fell in love with poetry when he was about seventeen and became a powerhouse in the canon of poetic literature by reading and thinking about poetry—what it is, how it’s made, and its value. Although critics regularly consider multiple sources, and even trace influence from one poet to another, influence is rarely the focus of critical analysis, but is instead a method of that analysis. Influence is not merely a tool, but a lens through which to understand more fully how poetry’s form and themes evolve over time, and perhaps how they devolve as well. This thesis traces the influences of Spenser in Keats’s The Eve of St. Agnes, and draws connections beyond the Romantic period to demonstrate how Spenser’s world-making, Keats’s lush language, and a tradition of re-evaluating sexual power roles and definitions of chastity carries through to the future, specifically Tennyson’s The Idylls of the King. My argument focuses on three major aspects of these poets’ work: definitions of chastity; using legend and poetry to shape English identity; and the varied uses of poetic language in lyric poetry to create ambiguity which reinforces and forces interpretations of these themes beyond the poems they reside in.
This thesis is Open Access and may be downloaded by anyone.