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Politics and poetic s: a comparative study of John Keats and Li He

Date

1996-01-01

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Doctoral

Abstract

This thesis presents a comparative study of the poetry of John Keats and Li He, both of whom are considered major "romantic" poets in world literature. Using various approaches--thematic, biographical and New Historicist--the study explores similarities as well as differences between the two poets' ideas and literary expressions, demonstrating how politics and poetics are closely interrelated. Chapter One treats "romanticism" as a useful term representing a crosscultural literary value, which may be found in the work of writers like Keats and Li who are geographically and historically widely separate. Chapter Two concentrates on those contextual elements which contributed in an important way to the development of Keats and Li as poets; that is, their biographical backgrounds, their sociopolitical milieux, their intellectual environments, and the literary arenas in which they were situated. Chapter Three deals with patriotism as an important theme in both Keats's and Li's poetical writings. But mainly as a result of the differences between their cultural and sociohistorical backgrounds, the two poets' patriotic concerns are very different: while Keats's patriotism places emphasis on the issue of freedom, Li is concerned primarily with the problem of national reunification. Chapter Four discusses the two poets' similar tendency against the established order: just as legitimate tyranny, the conservative government, so the English Church and other reactionary institutions are the object of Keats's satirical exposure, the decadence of the ruling classes and the darkness in his political reality are a constant target of Li's attack. Chapter Five investigates the two poets' abiding concern for human suffering. Chapter Six displays Keats's and Li's common quest for the ideal in the worlds of art, nature, myth and dream as a poetic effort to redeem rather than escape the harsh reality of the human world. The study finds that although there are certain ideological and stylistic differences between the two poets, they share many important thematic interests. While their differences may serve to illustrate how each poet is formed and informed by his contextual specificities, their similarities point forcefully towards romanticism as a crosscultural literary category. On a different plane, this comparative thesis suggests that at similar historical junctures (such as in an age of social unrest?), similar preoccupations and thematic concerns will find expression in the work of writers who may belong to disparate cultures and who may have no actual contact with one another.

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Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Department

English

Program

English

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