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Poetics of PalliationRomantic Literary Therapy, 1790-1850$
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Birttany Pladek

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781786942210

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781786942210.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 21 September 2021

John Keats’s ‘Sickness Not Ignoble’

John Keats’s ‘Sickness Not Ignoble’

(p.162) Chapter Five John Keats’s ‘Sickness Not Ignoble’
Poetics of Palliation

Brittany Pladek

Liverpool University Press

Chapter five argues that John Keats, usually read as Romanticism’s most ardent poet-physician, had knowledge of British medical ethics that led him to deny any neat congruity between the humanitarian duties of physicians and poets. While the former are ethically bound to dull pain, the latter are tasked with furthering the painful, pedagogical process of ‘Soul-Making’ Keats outlines in an 1819 letter. By reading Keats’s two Hyperion poems against an 1816 medical ethics text written for students of Guy’s Hospital like Keats, this chapter argues that by the end of his life, Keats dismissed the idea that poets, like physicians, must above all spare pain to their patients. Fallen from deity to mortality, the Titans of Hyperion develop distinct selves as they acquire individual histories of suffering. Their agony, re-presented in the metapoetic Fall of Hyperion, represents the ideal effect of art on readers: a pedagogical ‘sickness not ignoble’ whose infection is essential to crafting an individual subject. Anticipating a key mandate of narrative medicine, Keats enlists poetry in the rich but difficult mission of exploring how pain shapes an individual’s life story.

Keywords:   John Keats, Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, palliative care, disability, narrative medicine

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