Some Answers (for me) and Some Questions (for you)

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From Marjorie Garson’s “Bodily Harm” Keats’s Figures in the ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’” in Donald Keesey’s Contexts for Criticism:

“As the speaker interrogates the urn, we interrogate the poem: his questions serve as our answers.[ …]The only question that emerges for the reader at the end of the last stanza-‘What is going on here?’- direct attention toward the urn, not away from it into its historical context. […]It is clear by the end of the first stanza that the speaker knows, if not all he needs to know, at least all he is ever going to know about the urn, given the kinds of questions he is choosing to ask: they remain questions for us only because he has not yet unfolded their answers” (456). 

I liked this article because, like Belsey’s, it allowed me to make a lot of connections between our class discussions, our readings, and my own beliefs and experiences concerning literary criticism.  For instance, in one of my recent casebooks, I talked about this idea of Garson’s that the reader is questioning the urn as much as the speaker appears to (it would have been nice to have read this before so that I could incorporate it).  Also, like Garson, I suggested that the scene on the urn is not as historically accurate as some people suggest by their criticism of the poem.  I took a different approach, not really addressing the questions, but rather promoting the idea that the urn depicts a fictional scene.  Through this article, I can see how Poststructuralism and New Historicism and Political Criticism can all be incorporated into one coherent thesis and paper that supports it. 

I also really like that in the above quote Garson says that the reader questions the urn because I feel that this is just what every good critic or reader should do: question the work that is being read.  I know that I do this no matter what I am reading.  I especially question, as Garson promotes, what has been left out of what I am reading to make this poem what it is.

  I think out of all of the essays we have read, I have enjoyed this one most because, not only could I relate it to other readings and discussions, but also to the understanding of other subjects when I am reading and to the advice to question well all that I read.

But I am curious to know what others thought of the essay, especially what was thought of the title.  I'm still wondering exactly what she was talking about when she writes "bodily." Does anyone have any ideas? 


See what others have to think about Garson's essay.

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