The form of the ode is particularly suited to the exercise of an empathetic and projective imagination, and Keats’s odes have not surprisingly become synonymous with what is taken to be his most characteristic mode of creativity. This irregularly structured lyric, which takes the form of an address, provided Keats with an opportunity to explore the relationship between the self and other. In this respect, the excited fluctuations and identifications between the speaker and addressee in the ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ have been seen as instancing the workings of the Romantic imagination — that creative power which allows the poetic self to transcend its limitations by becoming that which it contemplates. This chapter focuses on the significant, but often underplayed, presence of gendered subjectivity in the odes which forms part of Keats’s continued engagement with the power of love as it manifests itself here in the form of sexual encounters, wild ecstasy, young lovers, happiness and appetitive desire. The chapter will also look at Keats’s self-proclaimed deployment of a feminised fancy rather than on imagination.
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