A Step by Step Process

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"Looking both backward and forward, acting as climax to the first two stanzas and as prophetic of the fourth stanza'a discovery, the third stanza occupies a pivotal position in the ode's entire dramatic trajectory" (Kent 115)

I think it helped that I read Keesey's Chapter 2 before I read this section. Keesey covered formalism in detail, and it made it much easier to understand some of what Kent was discussing in his essay.

I understood how Keesey used grammar and rhetoric to determine the importance of the third stanza in Keats's poem, but what bothers me is that I don't think I could come up with an observation like that on my own. I know I'm not expected to have anything close to the writers of the essays in our book, but some of the points they bring up, such as Kent, seem so obvious and yet when I first read the poem, I know I never would have probably picked out any of the points he mentioned.

Even though I do feel a little uncomfortable about how well I am at observing the "form" of the poem, I think after reading some of these essays, I will know what and how to focus my attention better to have more useful observations. I just find it amazing that little parts of the poem, can reveal so much about each section of it. For example, on page 113, in the first paragraph, Kent describes how all of the apostrophes in each stanza serve a different purpose. When I read that section, I thought about the first time I read the poem when it was on the overhead in class and thought "What meaning am I ever going to get out of this poem?". Now I know that even the slightest details can have important functions.

I think the part that was the most confusing for me about this essay was when Kent was talking about the urn being below language: "Life on the urn is not however, bilingual as the French word might fancifully suggest; as Keats discovers, this life is not even unilingual. The urn's life is beyond, or possibly below, language" (Kent 114). I didn't understand how he found the urn to be below language. If anyone else has a better grasp on this paragraph, please feel free to share it.

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1 Comments

The way I took that, Katie, is that the urn, unlike language, cannot dipict anything other than still images as the are. I imagine this urn to be covered with a series of many unrelated pictures. It is not like a comic strip in which you can see where the actions originate and where they will go. Language could describe the development of an event. If we were to have a description of the women who are being pursued, we may know if they were ever caught and what was to become of them.

However, just as every form of literary criticism has weaknesses, there is a weakness in language only being able to describe for it may never be as beautiful as the picture itself. Also, in the picture, life gets to remain as it is. Most humans' dreams come true and the people on the urn get to resist the change that would eventually bring their doom.

So, Katie, as you see, the urn is both above and below language. It just depends on what perspective you choose to take.

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