John Keats and the Diagnostic Imagination: Questions of Suspended Immortality and Sensual Immorality Open Access

Ko, Jasmine (2015)

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Though other critical studies exist on the influences of science and medicine on the works of John Keats, I propose that these influences work specifically through the agency of Keats' distinctly literary "diagnostic imagination." Keats was certainly predisposed to science by his education as a medical professional, but we must ultimately respect his decision to turn away from the medical field and enter the literary world of poetry. This thesis works to identify aspects of Keats' biography and medical education that influenced his conception of life and poetry, ultimately creating a term that I call Keats' diagnostic imagination. By describing the framework of a diagnostic imagination, I strive to incorporate Keats' medical and scientific reasoning into an approach to interpretation that can be applied to many of his works. Specifically, this work will look at the idea of suspended immortality and sensual immorality. Questions of immortality are one aspect of cognitive dissonance that Keats explores with his diagnostic imagination--his imagination sought to remedy the concept of an inevitable death. Keats represents inevitable death through scientific themes of meteorology, through which he depicts the "third physical state" where one is in autumn and confronted with the excess of the harvest amidst the looming of winter's death. This state suspends life for a brief period of time, but is a dream-like place devoid of senses. The questions of sensual immorality, therefore, are an attempt to reach the satisfaction of beauty and truth through exploring the intimate connections between mental consciousness and physical bodily senses. What is Keats' diagnostic imagination's ultimate diagnosis? Cognitive functions such as the imagination must be intimately experienced together with physical senses in order to carefully and gradually unravel a true discernment of beauty and truth.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1- John Keats: A Brief Background of the "Poet-Physician"...3

Introduction and Early Life...3

Apprenticeship and Training...5

Transition to Poetry, Criticisms...6


Chapter 2- The Diagnostic Imagination...10

The Diagnostic Imagination...10


Chapter 3- Meteorology and Human Health...22

The Concentration on Weather...22

The Third State in Physical Organization...27



Chapter 4- Senses are the Key to Truth...38



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