5CLIN JOHN KEATS

Today we’re going to meet another great writer belonging to the second generation of Romantic poets (he died at 26). When he was young he wanted to become a doctor but at 21 he abandoned medicine for poetry; thanks to that choice we can now enjoy his fantastic poems. All his life was characterized by his enduring and reciprocated love for Fanny Brawne. 

Here’s the beautiful love poem BRIGHT STAR you can also read in your textbookThe first video is the last scene of the movie when Fanny Browne recites the poem Keats had written for her. She had just been given the news of his death in Rome.

Let’s  watch the trailer of the movie about Keats and Fanny Brawne’s romance: Bright Star (2009) Director: Jane Campion Cast: Ben Whishaw (Keats), Abbie Cornish (Fanny Brawne), Kerry Fox (Mrs Brawne), Paul Schneider (Charles Armitage Brown).

AT HOME: Task 1Read A SHORT ACCOUNT of their thwarted love story.

As you know Keats moved to Rome hoping that the warmer climate would be beneficial to his illness, tuberculosis. The Keats-Shelley House  curator takes a walk through some of the rooms of the museum and explains why this place is so important. I went to visit it last February. One day, when in Rome you might decide to go there and visit it 🙂 

Another poem worth reading is the Ode to a Nightingale read by the actor of the movie Ben Whishaw. Here’s the poem in English & Italian

I cannot help adding the reading by the actor Benedict Cumberbatch, whose voice is just stunning!

As you can read in your textbook Keats believed in Beauty & the immortality of Art. His poetry claimed no moral or political purpose, thus anticipating the 19th century trend of ART FOR ART’S SAKE you have found in D’Annunzio & we’ll find in Oscar Wilde.

I end this post quoting the poet whose book of poems was found in Shelley’s pocket when he shipwrecked & died in the Gulf of Lerici.

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty’, – that is all

We know on earth , and all we need to know.”

To clarify what we said in class here’s a good explanation of NEGATIVE CAPABILITY. As Keats himself statedSeveral things dovetailed in my mind, & at once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in Literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously — I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason“. “A poem needs understanding through the senses. The point of diving in a lake is not immediately to swim to the shore; it’s to be in the lake, to luxuriate in the sensation of water. You do not work the lake out. It is an experience beyond thought. Poetry soothes and emboldens the soul to accept mystery.”

ASSIGNMENT: either as a comment in Blog or oral in class: CHOOSE one

a) How much importance do people attach to beauty nowadays? What role does art play in your life?

b) How do you relate to the concept of Negative Capability, this idea of being RECEPTIVE, not seeking absolute knowledge, a kind of flexibility and openness to the world also regarded as a rejection of the tendency to rationalise? 

26 thoughts on “5CLIN JOHN KEATS

  1. a) Nowaday, people give a lot of importance to beauty, especially outer beauty, for example thinking about the role it has in choosing the partner and the fact that it is crucial during the first impression. The effect that physical beauty has in our lives is very powerful. This can be seen in adolescence, focus on girls that follow a model to become the same.
    Beauty is crucial in workplace too. The influence of physical appearance during a job interview can also determine our entire working career.
    The relationship between beauty and well-being, work or school success spurs many people to spend a lot of energy (and money) for the search of a better physical appearance (using cosmetics, diets, exercises and aesthetic surgery ). The risk is that we sacrifice our uniqueness and authenticity for the obsession of reaching a beauty that doesn’t exist.
    Art plays a special role in my life. I mean: first of all, art includes all sort of creative expression; without that, I can become irritable. Art is part of humanity (it includes painting, singing, dancing, writing and all the things that are expression of thought). Secondly, art helps me to express my feelings: for example, when I listen to music I feel free… Without art I think that all humanity will be lost, because is the only way we have to vent our emotions.

  2. QUESTION: How do you relate to the concept of Negative Capability, this idea of being RECEPTIVE, not seeking absolute knowledge, a kind of flexibility and openness to the world also regarded as a rejection of the tendency to rationalise?

    Negative Capability is not an easy issue to deal with because people, in their everyday life are not keen on doing.
    The core of this concept lays in the ability of putting ourselves and our point of view apart and through the use of immagination trying to better understand another person’s point of view. This can turn out to be extremely useful especially when communicating with people with a different background, different culture, or simply with a different point of view. In this process imagination is the protagonist, we need imagination to exit from our perspective and try to see things with the other person’s eyes.
    Keats talked about this many many years ago but since he was dealing with a topic strictly linked to the human thinking and to the human nature we still can relate with it.
    Regardless of this, it is quite rare to encounter somebody using such a Capability, that in my opinion is a symptom of great enlightment and smartness; because nobody can demand having the absolute truth or that their point of view is undoubtedly the best because since we are the result of our experiences we get forged in very different ways, we grow up with different principles and different concept of ‘the right thing’ so we must not do the mistake of claiming that our ‘version of the story’ is the best because we might just know a little part of the entire. We need to remember that from other human beings we have A LOT to learn and by listening to them we could discover a whole new world.

    • I really liked your conclusion, in fact, “Negative Capability” means living in uncertainties and, even if I share your point of view that pictures “Negative Capability” as a great feature, nowadays is difficult to try living this way ’cause the only way to live a quite good life now is living surrounded by as much certainties as we can. Actually, we live in a material world. In spite of this, we should keep on incite imagination, as you said, for discovering new worlds and making other cultures and points of view our own

    • A very wise comment Leonardo. As you tried to state, EMPATHY – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another – is a necessary element to achieve deep and complete communication with “the other”. And yes, we have a lot to lear by listening … that’s why I love teaching so much.

  3. A) In these days I think beauty is more than important, it is fundamental to “survive” in this society.
    (Obviously I’m talking about the exterior beauty, which I think it is the most appreciated kind of beauty in the world.)
    And when I mean “survive” I mean to get noticed, to have more possibilities to be wanted, or included in a group.
    Whenever we walk through a street, we can observe posters with men and women with perfect bodies and smiles, like dolls.
    But exterior beauty is not the only kind of beauty.
    Art is an underrated concept of beauty.
    With literature, music and paintings your culture grows, and make a human wiser.
    I think that a brilliant person, who can speak and discuss about many topics, can attract people like a magnet more than a beautiful person.
    I like art, because I like creativity (one of the things I value most) and I can create my own worlds, with my own instruments, and in the ways I want.

    B) I think that Negative Capability is essential in art (well, it depends on which art movement you want to follow) but it can’t be applied to scientific subjects such as Maths, Physics, etc…where Rationalism is the PILLAR.
    It is important to be open to the world, and this is valid either for art and for science (both are in constant evolution).
    I think I can’t relate to Negative Capability only because I like (and I’ve always liked) rationalizing, and I tend to seek absolute knowledge.
    Even though I like using my imagination to create, like in Creative Writing, everything I do has to follow “Rationalism”.
    I don’t know if it is clear, but it is difficult to write down my “process of thought”.

    • “Art is an underrated concept of beauty.
      With literature, music and paintings your culture grows, and make a human wiser.
      I think that a brilliant person, who can speak and discuss about many topics, can attract people like a magnet more than a beautiful person.” I really like this passage here because I completely agree with you and I also think that something creative, different, in one general adjective “artistic” is so much more interesting and outstanding than something common. (Unfortunately our society is full of copies because that’s what make us more confident: having something that everyone else has or that’s already been tried.)

    • Sure that Negative Capability refers to a way of perceiving reality and it well applies to Literature, Poetry certainly not Maths. As you say, you’re perfectly aware of your analytic attitude but, for ex,even when dealing with th elearning of a foreign language, we need sometime to be FLEXIBLE and cannot have everything under control or find a reason for every idiom or way of saying (E.G. “make your bed”) Sometimes it’s important also to lET IT GO, to UNWIND & LOOSEN UP. 😉

  4. What better way to start my comment by quoting a verse from “L’ultimo Canto di Saffo” by Giacomo Leopardi? It says: “Virtù non luce in disadorno ammanto” which means that the world does not reward a person provided with a sense of art or beauty just because he or she is equipped with an ugly appearance. It sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Well, for me it does because I feel like we live in a world that’s full of “overflowing” prejudices and closed mind-sets: in fact, we don’t see potential and kindness just because we are blinded by physical aspects. I mean, what does a “normal” person have less than a model, an actress, a singer or any other famous person on earth? What? I think it could be a big audience, good make-up artists and a researched and very artificial posture, is it? Anyway, at the end of the day, we are all humans, we have all feelings and we are all worthy so what’s the difference? Is it just the fact that someone looks perfect compared to someone else? Yes. And should it matter much more than intelligence, education, well-being of our existence and gifts hidden deep down in our soul? In my opinion, not at all. We are different from one another for a reason, each one of us has something special wether it is good, bad, strange or exceptional; we shouldn’t put it on the back burner and forget about it because we are embarrassed of the way we are or because we think that it could only make everything worse or be useless. That’s where art gets in the game: music especially, but in any case, every expressive capability is what we use to throw out our profound feelings that we don’t want to show in another way. I point out music because I think it’s the most spread among teenagers; it is the sound of a voice and the sound of instruments that reflects our being, sure enough when we are sad we listen to sad music and instead when we are not, we listen to energetic music. That’s the power of art, the power to free you from what you have inside and so to unload you and make you feel okay with yourself forgetting about the rest. That’s the role that art plays in my life and I’m grateful for it because it makes me pull away for a while from reality just to recover and then come back a little bit stronger.

    • I think the problem of modern society is superficiality. It’s like judging a book from its cover. And social media are fueling this tendency.(You have to post one picture, or write a short sentence and people are already judging you.)

  5. Most of the people, when thinking about “beauty”, imagine a pretty face, a toned body and so many other external qualities. Only few ones focus on interior beauty, especially previous generations that used to know better how to deal with the matters of everyday (for example to court a girl was necessary to face her, since there were no further technologies).
    External beauty takes more space in today’s society, beginning from a high percentage of commercials which promote beauty as a necessity: if you don’t buy an acne cream you won’t solve your problem, so you’ll be in difficulty with the fairer sex; if you don’t buy the latest pair of shoes on the market you’ll be old-fashioned and much more.
    Inner beauty is th real Beauty, which goes over everything that is ended and limited, that’s why “True beauty lies in purity of the heart” – Mahatma Ghandi.
    A very close connection lies also between beauty and art which isn’t predefined, I believe art is very subjective, it’s not nice what is beautiful but it’s nice what pleases.
    I could appreciate a beautiful and relaxing sunset painting or even a stormy and dark landscape painting, what is important is that both make me feel good.

    Negative capability is difficult to understand very good, I got the sense and I believe we could never reach the absolute knowledge: we won’t reach it for lack of capacities, for a matter of time, for the limitation of our intellect and for many other reasons.
    We could only imagine the presence of an absolute knowledge but we’ll never concretise this idea.

    • As Shakespeare said “Beauty lies in the eyes of the Beholder”. But it’s great when I see young women like you who are endowed with both kinds of beauty 🙂

  6. Nowadays BEAUTY is very important in people life. The effect it can be in a mind is very powerful.
    The most “common” beauty today, is without any doubts the physical one. A lot of people are obsessed by their look, that it has to respect the aesthetics canons of modern society (being slim, muscular, wearing makeup). Trying to be perfect, we sacrifice our time, our energy and money we could spend in a better way.
    Above all for young people, the appearance is fundamental to make a good impression, because we constantly judge each other.
    Now it’s more important the image that you give rather than your essence, what you have inside. Luckily there are still people who are attracted by intellectual beauty and don’t even care the physical appearance.
    Another important thing in people life is ART. Art is a way to express ourselves, to free our minds and our feelings. It’s a place where you take refuge and escape from the real world.
    I see in art freedom and peace for example when I listen to music. In those moments I can be totally myself and I don’t have to reflect on my problems.
    Finally I think that a world without art would be an empty and a miserable world.

  7. A) Francesca has quoted the key-verse to describe perfectly the role that beauty has in our society.
    Speaking of virtues, which are not taken into consideration if they come from an “ugly” body, I cannot but agree with Luana when she says that beauty is requested even at work.
    A great example is given by the music industry, which prefers to sell the image of the artist instead of his own music.
    Actually, in my opinion, it might have also a black mark because if someone is too beautiful, namely almost perfect, people feel at least a twinge of envy and start to spread “contempt” instead of admiration.
    Therefore, it doesn’t look like a healthy beauty, but rather like something annoying.
    This aspect doesn’t correspond with the real aim of art, that is to make beauty eternal.

    Art catches a moment, a feeling and make it undying.
    In my life, art plays an inconsistent role.
    On the one hand, I use it to free my emotions and feel lighter, on the other, I employ it to feel more pain in the dark moments.
    Why do some people “enjoy” feeling sad?
    Well, maybe because “after the rain, there’s rainbow; after a storm, there’s calm”, and art is a way to suffer and achieve the happiness and the calm we have lost.
    Art takes you to that intimate, personal world that you have in your mind through imagination and the sensations you perceive from it.
    Paintings, songs, poems designate the path we got to travel to escape from the reality.

    • You correctly mention the music industry but don’t you think that it applies more to women than men & it has to do with the image a female artist must have? Still there are exceptions… I’m with you when referring to contrasting feelings and indulging in sorrow … Great comment.

  8. Nowadays beauty plays the most important role in people’s life. Everyone in these times try tries to look pretty at other’s eyes, in this way the very important part of ourselves is set apart and we just leave our physical aspect speak for us. Some people don’t really love to express themselves by words , they’re probably afraid of being judged. They hide their weaknesses and insecurities behind their fashion clothes and they want to give us the idea that they’re strong and sure of themselves. This aspiration to a perfect life could be emphasized by social network. Here people are free to share with everyone the perfection of their lives and they want to appear everytime like they’re always happy and they’ve no problem to think about. Therefore people think that beauty is the key to open the door of success, it allows you to live with more confidence and more security in yourself because beauty puts you on your ease.
    Art plays a quiet important role in my everyday’s life. I believe that art is all we can do with our imagination and emotions by omitting reason. Infact art transcend from reason,and that allows you to think beyond the mere reality. I really appreciate every type of art but most of all music, that has an important position in my life. Music brings me in other worlds, making me forget bad thoughts . But even reading is one of my hobbies that I like to continue practicing . I recently started the philosophical novel “il mondo di Sofia” from Jostein Gaarder, and I’m really excited about it

  9. Nowadays people often attach too much importance to beauty. We often focus ourselves only on beauty, I mean external beauty, instead of considering also the internal one, which should be more important.
    I think beauty doesn’t “make” a person, in fact it sometimes happens that beautiful people are the most shallow, false. On the other hand, “less beautiful” people, better say the ugly ones, could be the deepest and the most understanding but they often have fear of expressing their virtues and capabilities.
    In general today, and I add UNFORTUNATELY, external beauty is for most of the people more important than the internal one, because we live in a society full of prejudices and where appearance has a clear role. It often happens that, if someone isn’t enough beautiful for the others, he/she can’t take part in a group or people make fun of him/her and these are foolish aspects.
    According to the role of art in my life…it plays a fundamental role, in particular MUSIC, which is one of the arts, with sculpture, paint, architecture, tragedy… Like Schopenauer said, “music is the most sublime of the arts”. I totally agree with the philosopher. It abstracts from the daily reality and it is extraordinarily infinite and subjective. For me music is something that makes me feel relaxed, in particular according to my mind and when I listen to it I feel like in another world for some minutes. Furthermore I think that a song riflects our mood, in fact when I feel sad for example, and I listen to a sad song, it helps me to “isolate” better myself from all the things around me. This is what I mean whit “being in another world for some minutes”

    • very interesting your reference to Shopenauer & I agree with whet you stated. It’s pretty masochistic to listen to depressing songs when sad but I tend to do the same 😉

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