Reflection: Developing a Conceptual Understanding Psst, This Poem Has a Personal Secret for the Reader: Composing the Reader Response Essay - Section 3: "Hollywood's Grecian Urn Problem": An Example of Reader Response


John Keats has long been one of my favorite poets, and although he's included among British writers, he is, indeed Irish. When I first read "Ode on a Grecian Urn," I found it confusing. I had ot deconstruct it and realize that it's a poem that fits Archibald MacLeish's admonition that "a poem should not mean / But be." I had to get to the point of realizing that the poem evokes a sense of art's place as enduring and constant while so many other things in life are fleeting. Of course, this is best expressed in the final lines: "Beauty is truth, truth beauty.--that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know." Here the word beauty refers to the beauty found in artistic expression. 

That art endures when so much fails was really revealed to me when in a graduate course on Early Twentieth Century literature the professor remarked, "The only way Keats could see a Grecian Urn in the British Museum is because the British stole it." That's the legacy of British Imperialism. Certainly thinking about this offers another way to think about Keats's poem. That is, it's an artifact that exists in a moment in time and offers a historical perspective about power. 

I mention these points because one way I think about literary criticism in its various incarnations is to think about the unique qualities of one mode of criticism in terms of its relationship to other critical methods. 

  What's a Grecian Urn Doing in the British Museum?
  Developing a Conceptual Understanding: What's a Grecian Urn Doing in the British Museum?
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Psst, This Poem Has a Personal Secret for the Reader: Composing the Reader Response Essay

Unit 10: Romantic, Victorian, and Modern British Poetry
Lesson 8 of 9

Objective: SWBAT compose a reader response essay that reveals the "transaction" that has occurred between the reader and the text.

Big Idea: "It takes a great reader to make a great book" --Natalia Garibian

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