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April 23, 2009

Marjorie Garson on "Ode"

I managed to seperate Marjorie Garson's essay Bodily Harm: Keats's Figures in the "Ode on a Grecian Urn" into four categories.

The Urn: "...an art object that, liberated from the exigencies of history, at once embodies and laments the permanent paradoxes of the human condition..."(453)
"The urn's seamless surface tends to conceal that it is constructed of historical materials--made up of fragments of an appropriated culture..."(454)
The question: From your reading of "Ode" do you suppose Keats used one urn or a collection of several to compose his poem?
(Sue Myers's blog contains links to the actual vases mentioned in Garson's essay)

The Politics: "The history of their acquisition is not irrelevant to a reading of his ode. From the middle of the 17th century, the stones of Greece had become increasingly vulnerable to souvenir-hunters."(454)
"The English appropriated Greek culture and the ideal of Greekness in a highly selective and oppertunistic way, making it serve social and cultural ends that were in the widest sense thoroughly political."(458)
"He envisaged the exhibition doing for him what it was widely believed to do for English art and architecture as a whole--stimulating a new age of creativity."(455)
The question: Do you think it appropriate that nations removed pieces of antiquity?

The Poet: "Ian Jack concluded that Keats probably drew on a number of museum-pieces that he had seen, or seen drawings of, and constructed a composite ideal urn from their details."(454)
"The painter Benjamin Hayden, who introduced Keats to the exhibition--where he was more than once seen..."(455)
The question: Do you feel that Keats had any objection to the removal of antiquities from their place of origin?

The Poem: "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, nd in the context of a political debate of which Keats was fully aware."(455)
"The poem does not really want to know what men or gods these are, for any archaeological answer would defeat the claim to universality upon which it bases its own appropriation of Greekness. It poses its questions so that they are not really questions, to make sure that they are not really answered."(455)
The question: Do you think, as Garson suggests, that the poem, like the urn, is best interpreted by the unanswerability of the questions posed therein?

What others have to say on this essay...

Posted by QuinnKerno at April 23, 2009 3:19 PM


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