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February 25, 2007

EL312: Brann is such an unfortunate last name (thank goodness her first name isn't "raisin")

Sorry, I had to get that one out of the way... But really... Brann has got to be one of those last names kids get teased about all of the time. Yikes.

As for her essay, Brann writes some inspiring things about Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Ode":

One might say that the Ut pictura poesis tradition has a complex culmination in the ode: here is a poem addressing an urn and describing the pictures upon it, pictures which in turn induce visions of a world behind them; moreover, in the end the urn itself gives voice and responds to the poet's questioning--responds delphically, though not, as some claim, vapidly. (246)

This becomes an enigma, then, between the written and visual arts. Keats writes the poem to depict the urn, the urn is anonymously sculpted and painted to depict an era. Even though Keats did not use any one urn as the object for his poem, the imaginary one has the same characteristics as a real one.

...which leads me to another point: if Keats is depicting an imaginary urn--one that does not actually exist in reality--by what means would we find the image of the urn we are to imagine, other than by appropriating images from things we DO know? (Here I find Keats denies a fundamental Platonic principle involving mimesis in favor of the more Aristotelian definition... but the poem still works because human beings appropriate imagery from the world around them AND from forms in our minds or memories.)

And since the urn responds "delphically" (not vapidly), in saying "Beauty is truth; truth beauty" we can only assume that Brann means that Keats is truthfully interpreting the urn's speech (the epigram?).

Brann, ''Pictures in Poetry: Keats's 'Ode on a Grecian Urn'' -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

Posted by KarissaKilgore at February 25, 2007 6:26 PM


Is Keats interpreting anything at all with what he says on the Urn, or is he presenting a representation that speaks for itself. In other words, can the image on the urn be conjured out of thin air, or does it have to be based upon something that Keats had seen somewhere before. If it can be conjured, than do mimetics provide an adequate analysis for interpreting the poem? Is the ode just an exercise by Keats in a long-forgotten poetic style, or is he creating something new in the spirit of iconic poetry.

Posted by: Dave Moio at February 28, 2007 8:52 PM

Wow. A lot of questions that need to be answered to some degree. I think that the Urn is portray a painting in the mind of whoever reads it. Because the Urn is anonymous, and Keats is merely repeating what he is seeing, a portrait is being displayed in his head and ours, and that is one of the messages that Brann is getting across to his readers in his essay. Although we have never seen the Urn, the Urn is actually a realistic figure in this poetry. As for David's final question, I think that it is a combination of both recreation and exercise for the Urn's writings. I do not think that the style is long-forgotten, yet more of someone who is reading an Urn that he has admiration for.

Posted by: Jason Pugh at February 28, 2007 11:13 PM

Something interesting that I thought while reading your blog, Karissa, is that if we look at Keats' ode as something he created from his idea of an urn, rather than basing it off of an actual urn, then perhaps Plato would agree that the poem is a better representation of reality than if he were to base it on an actual physical urn. This is because the work is only once removed from the true reality (the thought of an urn) as opposed to twice removed as something replicated twice, first as the physical urn and then again as the depiction of the urn in the poem. So maybe Plato would be impressed...except then there is the problem of practicality which Plato also seems to emphasize. The ode itself is not useful in the way that an actual urn would be useful. But, hey, it is still interesting.

Posted by: Lorin at March 1, 2007 9:28 AM

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