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Garson a little fem?

Garson, 'Bodily Harm" Keats's Figures in the 'Ode on a Grecian Urn''' -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

Garson said a mouthful, literally. To start off her essay she immediately gets on the narrator for directly addressing every noun in the poem except,.you guessed it, the female victims. But then she switches up and starts on Keats and suggest to us why he uses the apostrophe, “To use them is to address someone who cannot talk back-a strategy that ensures not only that you will have the last word, but that your discourse will manifest a high degree of “literariness’(Scholes)”(Keesey 453). Basically Keats wrote an ode and used apostrophes to gain fame and speak the loudest.
She goes on to explain that it is common practice to use the metaphor of chastity when discussing Greek art. Then she points out how Keats probably never got this story off of one urn, but a collection of many different pieces of Greek art. There isn’t one urn that’s telling this story, but a collection of art was used to tell this story. Next, it is pointed out that the voice of the speaker is politically driven, or in Keats perspective-ambitious. She quotes Byron as stating that a ravaged culture is metaphorically female, which would bring one to read Keats poem as a ravaged Greek Culture and not just a love story. “The urn’s seamless surface tends to conceal that it is constructed of historical materials-made up of fragments of an appropriated culture”(Keesey 454). Which is hidden by the voice of the narrator of the poem through the use of the apostrophes. “The poem, then, is written not in a historical vacuum, but in the face of a national act of appropriation that seemed to promise England benefits not only spiritual but also material, and the context of a political debate of which Keats was fully aware. The ode, however, tends apparently to suppress both the appropriation and the debate” (Keesey 455).
Now lets talk about the poem. She claims that the poem sets itself up to be two things, a lyrical poem, and a story. Which then gets people to read it as “the poetics of the lyric and the codes of a narrative”(Keesey 455). So as we read along we use the narrator as our guide. As this narrator starts to asks questions so do we(as readers), but we find our answers in the narrators questions (Garason’s claim). Garson claims that the urn isn’t going to tell the narrator any more information than he already knows. Which is why she now goes on to claim that the narrator turns the “gang rape” scene into a scene of lost love. He knows what is missing, he just omits it to make the story sound better. She is arguing that the rape missing here in the poem is more applicable to Keats himself. The idea of”stripping the “legend” off the circular surface of the urn and running it comic-strip wise precipitates it’s “still” images into time. It gives the poem a plot that the rules of narrative constrain us to read”(Keesey457). Garson feels that a poem must mean and not be. But Keats has forced(raped) the poem into something it isn’t, a narrative. Keats did this as soon as he turned this urn into words. (Didn’t she already say this probably isn’t an actual urn?) This is also where she gets feminist on us and explain the male desire to overtake the female wholeness(the urn).
Now she closes her essay on trying to uncover the meaning of the questions in the forth and final stanza of the poem. In the fourth stanza we read about a town, a quiet town. But to Garson there is no town, there is no town on the urn(urn again) and it’s only in the speaker/narrators mind. She explains that the town is silent as a metaphor of the suppression of history. Wait it gets better. Recall the apostrophes and the silence they bring, well the way the speaker uses the apostrophes here brings this silent history to life, and the town that was unable to speak doesn’t matter if it speaks or not because the speaker just did. He is talking for the urn, he is telling the urn what to say. The urn has/had no voice. The speaker is giving her(the urn) the voice which is actually his voice. Here is where it gets political. This can only work as on a political level, not a psychological one. This is a cover up for the English appropriated Greek culture. By showing the lover’s failure allowed for Keats to cover up his success. “This is irony of a text, voicing its awareness that life cannot appropriate the static perfection of art, nevertheless speaks-with apparent complacency to which generations of readers have complacently responded-...The ode’s stunning currency as a cultural icon-its exemplary canonicity- is perhaps worth thinking about in the context of the history and the politics it has tended so throughly to repress”(Keesey 459).
I think that there are parts of her argument that seem a little stretched. She cliams that there isn't one urn, but she continues to fuss over a rape scene on this urn. I think this is an exapmle of reading too much into the history and using said history to tie into a particular work. I want to know how you, the class, feels about this assumption?

Comments (1)

Is it really possible to read into history too much? Or is it that our interpretations can lead us astray at some points? I think that the argument is only as good as its evidence, and personally, I did think that Garson had a valuable argument. Do I agree with it 100% percent? No, of course not. That would be too ideal. But I do think that we, including myself" might be overlooking the "Greek" aspect of the urn, considering how this is a cultural reading.

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