Journal Article

Keats and the Holocaust: Notes Towards A Post-Temporalism

Kelly Grovier

in Literature and Theology

Volume 17, issue 4, pages 361-373
Published in print December 2003 | ISSN: 0269-1205
Published online December 2003 | e-ISSN: 1477-4623 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/litthe/17.4.361
Keats and the Holocaust: Notes Towards A Post-Temporalism

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This article begins by asking what it means for meaning to exist in literature. As an answer to this question, it is suggested that meaning is never wholly present, never immanent, but is endlessly emergent—always, as it were, imminent. In the light of this proposition, it is argued that critical preoccupation either with deliberate literary allusion on the one hand, or with unintentional historical elision on the other, as the basis for establishing existing meaning within a text, is misguided. Our determination to locate allusions and elisions is based on the supposition that meaning is principally to be traced back to events, enunciations, and anxieties occurring in the past. But after summoning and modifying emphases of Meister Eckhart, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and T.S. Eliot, it is suggested that the meaning of a given work may be as significantly shaped by the introduction into the tradition of subsequent texts as by the excavation of earlier ones. As illustration, the article considers the unexpectedly impressionable nature of John Keats's ode ‘To Autumn’ when read in the presence of the powerful elegy that Geoffrey Hill composed nearly a century and a half later, ‘September Song’.

What is by now evident and clear is that neither future nor past exists, and it is inexact language to speak of three timespast, present, and future. Perhaps it would be exact to say: there are three times, a present of things past, a present of things present, and a present of things to come.

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Subjects: Literature ; Religion and Art, Literature, and Music

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