This book surveys the poetic endeavour of John Keats and urges that his true poetry is uniquely constituted by being uttered through three artificial masks, rather than through the natural voice of his quotidian self. The first mask is formed by the attitudes and reality that ensue from a conscious commitment to the identity of poet as such. The second, called here the Mask of Camelot, takes shape from Keats's acceptance and compelling use of the vogue for medieval
imaginings that was sweeping across Europe in his time. The third, the Mask of Hellas, eventuated from Keats's enthusiastic immersion in the rising tide of Romantic Hellenism. Keats's great achievement, the book argues, can only be ascertained by means of a resuscitation of the defunct critical
category of 'genius', as that informs his use of the masks. To validate this category, the volume is concerned throughout with the necessity of discriminating the truly poetic from the meretricious in Keats's endeavour. The Masks of Keats thus constitutes a criticism of and a rebuke to the deconstructive approach, which must treat all texts as equal and must entirely forego the conception of quality.
`a culmination of a lifetime of engagement with Keats, the Romantics, and the lyric poem'
`The book is tough-mindedly lucid; it has a firm sense of its overall purpose and a strong conviction about its judgements, and quite right too; yet it still allows some nice local displays of flamboyance ... McFarland is very eloquent on the dreadful, and dreadfully self-aware, brevity of Keats's life'
Seamus Perry, June 2001
`magisterial and engaging ... it is clearly a labour of love, illuminated by the author's obvious affection for his subject as much as it is by his customarily wide and deep learning.'
Seamus Perry, June 2001
`McFarland brings to his task a rare combination of eloquence, intelligence and empathy.'
Michael O'Neill, The Review of English Studies, New Series, Vol.52, No 206, 2001
`At once timely and likely to stand the test of time, the latest monograph by Thomas McFarland is ... among his best.'
Michael O'Neill, The Review of English Studies, New series, Vol.52, No 206, 2001
`McFarland is deeply learned and a fine writer. His discussions of the great poems are sensitive and continually rewarding.'
CHOICE Oct. 2000. Vol.38, No.2.
Key to Brief Titles Cited
1: The Two Masks
2: The Mask of Camelot
3: Life Mask and Death Mask
4: Aspects of the Mask of Hellas
5: The Too-Muchness of Keats: The Narrative Line
6: The Churning of Genius
7: The Great Achievement