Should Keats' 'Ode on a Grecian Urn' Be Part of the Literary Canon

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Should Keats’ ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ be a part of the literary canon? Applying Critical Theories of Aesthetics, Judgement and Value to a poem For the past two centuries the works of John Keats have been revered as classic pieces of literature which hold a pivotal and permanent position in the literary cannon. Keats’ ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ encapsulates his trademark techniques of eloquent sensuous language to create strong dialectics, which subsequently voice his ideas and philosophies on life. When assessing a piece of literature’s claim to canonical status, there are a range of factors which can be applied and must be considered when judging its worth and value. Keats’ Odes raised much contemporary criticism as well as commendation, which it continues to receive and therefore the placement of ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ is a controversial choice which deserves careful deliberation. Rob Pope defines aesthetics as “things perceptible to the senses” . In every day usage, aesthetics becomes synonymous with art and beauty, “aesthetics = refined pleasure = art = beauty”1 and therefore literature which embodies this is greatly credited. It is undeniable that Keats provides aesthetic imagery as ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ has a continuous underlying theme of the senses. This is purposely exercised by Keats, an advocate of dialectics, because in extensively describing sensual imagery, “for ever warm and still to be enjoyed”, Keats creates the paradox of attributing sentient qualities to an object of immutability – he provides life for the inanimate Urn. Pope later refines his definition of aestheticism to “elitist notions of the sublime and beautiful”1; arguably the Urn is presented by Keats as an object of both these qualities, as it possesses the ability to transcend the negative aspects of life, whilst preserving the beauty of it. This is demonstrated by Keats

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