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Sunday, 15 March 2009

From the Deep Keats Scrolls: Negative Capability

The Deep Keats Scrolls (eight of the full set of twenty-nine are exhibited here) were composed over a period of some twenty years (1987-2007) for the benefit of students in lectures on Keats given in one's home, where they were displayed on a large easel. The inscriptions cover the verso sides of recycled 48" x 36" sheets of architectural drawing paper. (Given Keats's early calling to the medical profession, it's perhaps appropriate--or ironic?--that the unseen front sides of the sheets contain plans for the construction of a major urban hospital.)


(if you click on the image you'll get a larger view)


Anonymous said...

this is such great stuff, which I stumbled on while Googling for something to help with my midterm in Poetry. I am American exchange student in Italy, and i love Keats. I think he will be on the test since he was in Italy and all. I hope that I can use some of this to get back at my condescending lit teacher, who probably never even heard about the Junkets stuff.

Yesterday i went to see Dante's Inferno with the school. it was an opera with acrobats and stuff. uber uber uber cool. but i felt a little stupid cuz i don't know the story at all and the trip was shaperoned by the creepy art teacher (who is enthusiastic as all hell about making sure i understand EVERYTHING including the stuff that i would just like to let pass over my head and he insists on speaking english to me and then switching to italian and speaking really really really slow and loud and looking at me over his glasses like ARE YOU CATCHING ALL THIS!!!!! makes me feel like a special ed kid. or an esl kid. i guess i am an esl kid. i hope all the esl kids at school don't feel like this when we speak slow and loud to them...) and my italian teacher. Dante is her subject after all, italian lit, so she was also very concerned about my not knowing the work. so they had a very concerned discussion right over my head while my friends were eating potato
chips behind me and i was just wishing the damn intermission would hurry up and get over with so they would all shut up. which they didn't actually. one of the usher's had to come and talk to them and ask them to keep their voices down but it didn't help and the girl sitting next to me who im not too excited about (sort of the fake nice type) kept bumping into me and so i ended up being pissed as hell through purgatory and heaven

Anonymous said...

Dear Evangelina,

I wouldn't feel bad, it's rumoured there are others who have found purgatory and heaven over-rated.

Anonymous said...

I've been looking more at your beautiful Deep Keats Scrolls and see something new everytime. they were a big help in getting ready for the midterm. for the essay part the lit teacher floated out a puffball question about Negative Capability. Well, after studying your Off-the-Cliff Notes I can do neg cap standing on my head, so i nailed it. thank you. thank you. and i am feeling pretty good. Do you do Byron and algebra II?

...thinking more about the play and the last part when this awkward griffin came out and it was two guys in this big griffin suit that had its tongue stuck out in a most awkward way and kept thrusting its huge (gorgeous) unawkward wings in the air when the music hit an nice big happy chord and then stomping its feel a little awkwardly like maybe it was kind of bored. and then it would stick its tongue out again and look very silly. finally it lumbered (you guessed it!) awkwardly off the stage but i was kind of sad because it made my day. after all the chatting and pushing and potato chips and concerned conversations about the poor american girl who doesn't know the greatest piece of italian literature ever written. *aaaaaaahumph* =) the first scene was really really cool because it was basically the fall from grace i think. two dudes strung up on wires and one was all tied up in red lights and the other all in white lights and they were fighting up there and at the end the red guy fell down and all the lights went out and then you met dante (who i didn't realize who it was until the very end when everyone's in heaven with the big awkward griffin and the lady kept singing DAAAAAAAAAAANTEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!! and i thought oh. i get it. its dante...) and the story begins.

Anonymous said...


Good news that you have nailed negative capability. The next challenge is positive capability, but I suppose if either of us ever nails that, we'll no longer have time to continue the pleasant conversation of which we appear to be positively capable at the moment.

Your teacher has explained I am sure that Keats wrote his wonderful poems at an age not much advanced beyond your own, and I'm sure your study of Dante will soon be inspiring you too to poetic creation. Keats, as your teacher has no doubt related, was a great admirer of Dante. He inscribed his famous "Bright Star" sonnet on the flyleaf of a copy of Cary's translation of Dante which he presented as a gift to his sweetheart Fanny Brawne. And if you proceed on in your studies to the "Dante sonnet" ("As Hermes once...") you will see that reading Dante's tale of Paolo and Francesca threw the lad into a bit of a tizzy. You would be in a far better position than this ancient scholar to know how that is--sharing a romantic tale with someone hot and immediately adjacent. (By the way, there are some comments on that sonnet, swirling in a bit of a fog, toward the upper left margin of the Deep Keats Scroll on "The Eve of St. Agnes". You can click to enlarge the swirling of the fog, but beware the erasures, which add an element of confusion perhaps akin to attempting to make out Dante through the ambient munching of crisps).

poetowen said...


I'm overwhelmed--going half-blind reading these off the screen, but that doesn't matter--worth risking a migraine. I'm in a keatsian state of over-excite. Brilliant!

And, Evangelina--are you for real? Every time I think I've nailed Neg Cap it turns around and bites me, hard. Watch out!


Anonymous said...


And I am in a BTP state of inappropriate thrill to know you are so ogling--though I do sympathize with that eyeball-testing risk-of-migraine state; in fact inscribing these scrolls produced so many fullblown migraines, back in the day (night actually), that I don't think I slept a minute all those years. (No wonder things ended up beyond the pale.)

Know what you mean about Neg Cap, dangerous territory: probably there should be a Parental Advisory on this scroll, elsewise BTP may need liability insurance. But yes, we on this site do indeed all wonder about the mysterious, maybe-real (?) Evangelina. (Which reminds me, what exactly is "real," again?)

Anonymous said...

I have never seen something like this. What a good idea!