Notes on Keats

Keats, and what the phantasmagoric has to offer in coherence/complexity- the phantasmagoric being a mode of the visionary- Keats' phantasmagoric approach in "Nightingale" argues for the manifest complexity/density of mere subjectivity, and this argument is a critical commonplace in relation to Romanticism, but lifted into a kind of textual ether by a dazzling array of polarities, swimming in and out of textual focus. They all vie for predominance, generating friction which gives off an intense visceral heat, heightened by melopoeiac/prosodic mastery, into a sense of the text as a juggernaut or conflagration, an intense, sustained, and burning moment. This is the unique province of major high art consonant poetry over prose. The momentary nature of the lyric poem- maximum coherence/maximum complexity as an inspiration, in and out, and over- has, as its principle, and as Keats noticed himself, intensity as its signature virtue against prose and other forms of literature. Why the Odes establish Keats as an almost peerless lyric poet is that when a phantasmagoric edge is added to cognitive-affective intensity, the lyric poem creates a map of creative cognitive consciousness which prose, for all its expansive objectivity and perspective adumbration, cannot.

Phantasmagoric vistas, the romanticism of extreme momentary intensity- in short, genuine poetry- the principle to achieve these effects is inclusion, movements towards things (material and cognitive) and embraces of them. Wordsworth enacts the same textual process, even in his semi-objective Prelude. Prose writers are compelled by other imperatives- yet, genuine cognitive ascension towards profound understanding and solid principles is more fulfilled by the objectivity of the non-romantic plain glance. Ultimately, the two approaches don't need to negate each other- the 60-40 advantage I give to objectivity and prose (especially in relation to philosophy and science) owes to the inaccessible nature of real intensity in the human world, and the Odes especially are such rare birds that they cannot age completely gracefully over the larger, more imposing realities of human life as they manifest, and permanently so, and as consciousness ages towards understanding of sense past sensibility and the allure of the momentary and its phantasmagoria.