Chapter

Why There are so Many Meanings (I)

Jack Stillinger

in Reading The Eve of St. Agnes

Published in print November 1999 | ISBN: 9780195130225
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199855209 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195130225.003.0004
Why There are so Many Meanings (I)

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This chapter further develops the book’s premise that each individual reader’s experience of a complex literary piece is unique. As illustrated by the voluminous interpretations of John Keats’s “The Eve of St. Agnes” documented in the previous chapter, the author stresses that, even in professional literary circles, many valid understandings of the poem exist. The reason for this diversity is explained through the multifaceted nature of the literary work being studied and its readership’s unique perceptions as well. A complex literary piece provides a nearly overwhelming number of avenues for interpretation in each line and word, which an individual reader, with distinct and diverse ways of experiencing things, struggles to understand. The reading experiences of each individual are further enriched and complicated by one’s boundless creativity, combined with the collective understanding and interpretation of a literary piece’s entire readership since its creation.

Keywords: John Keats; St. Agnes; poem; readers; interpretation; literary piece; creativity

Chapter.  9119 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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