If, as George Gissing once wrote, “to like Keats is a test of fitness for understanding poetry,” than the essays collected in this volume suggest that literary criticism remains a lively and vigorous endeavor. Written by a broad range of prominent scholars—Senior Romanticists as well as younger critics and major poets—the essays offer a fresh reevaluation of the nature and importance of John Keats’s achievement. The idealistic aesthete or humanistic hero admired by earlier generations of readers develops into a much richer, more complex image of the poet. The product of a continuing critical dialogue, this new Keats attests not only to his own enduring appeal but also to the persistent vitality of poetry itself amid the distractions of a fragmented postmodern culture.
An introduction by Robert M. Ryan reviews the history of Keats scholarship, situating new critical assessments by M. H. Abrams, Walter Jackson Bate, Eavan Boland, David Bromwich, Hermione de Almeida, Terence Alan Hoagwood, Elizabeth Jones, Debbie Lee, Philip Levine, Donald H. Reiman, Ronald A Sharp, George Steiner, Jack Stillinger, Aileen Ward, and Susan Wolfson.