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The Poetry of John Keats

1. Keats the Reader

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About this Lecture


Although Keats never went to university, he was nevertheless a voracious reader. He was said to have read every book in his school library, while he himself boasted of having read Shakespeare’s Hamlet more than forty times. According to a school friend, he “ramped through” Spenser’s Faerie Queene “like a young horse into a Spring meadow”, while he also found time to read Homer, Virgil, Milton, Tasso, and many other authors in the literary canon. In this module, we think about Keats as a reader, focusing in particular on his poems ‘On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer’ and ‘Hyperion’.


In this course, Dr Ross Wilson (University of Cambridge) explores the poetry of John Keats. In the first two modules, we think of Keats in terms of first reader, then writer, thinking about his engagement with both the texts of others—and particularly the great writers of the Western canon such as Homer and Shakespeare—as well as his approach to his own writings. As we move through the course, we think about the broader themes in Keats’ poetry—his interest in the senses, in the idea of negativity and disanalogy, and his experimentation with and handling of poetic form. In the final module, we think of Keats in terms of his relationship with others—firstly in a personal sense, and then in a more political.

Across the course as a whole, we take into account several of Keats’ poems and letters, including:‘On First Looking into Chapman's Homer’, ‘Hyperion’, ‘Bright Star’, ‘On Sitting Down to Read King Lear Once Again’, ‘Isabella; or The Pot of Basil’, ‘When I have Fears That I May Cease to Be’, ‘O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell’, and ‘In Drear Nighted December’.


Ross Wilson was born in Salford and brought up in north Manchester, where he attended Philips High School and Bury College. He was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and University College London before completing his doctorate at Cambridge in 2004. He held a Research Fellowship at Emmanuel (2004-7) and a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship in the Faculty of English, Cambridge (2007-9) before being appointed to a lectureship in Literature in the School of Literature, Drama, and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia in 2009. He returned to Cambridge in 2013 as Lecturer in Criticism in the Faculty of English and took up a fellowship at Trinity College. He is editor of Romantic Circles Reviews & Receptions and very occasionally tweets @RossWilso . In 2015-16 he is the Crausaz Wordsworth Fellow at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Wilson, R. (2018, August 15). The Poetry of John Keats - Keats the Reader [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Wilson, R. "The Poetry of John Keats – Keats the Reader." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,