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Reading The Eve of St. AgnesThe Multiples of Complex Literary Transaction$
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Jack Stillinger

Print publication date: 1999

Print ISBN-13: 9780195130225

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195130225.001.0001

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The Multiple Readings

The Multiple Readings

(p.35) Three The Multiple Readings
Reading The Eve of St. Agnes

Jack Stillinger

Oxford University Press

This chapter presents the varied documented experiences and interpretations of John Keats’s “The Eve of St. Agnes” by various literary professionals since the time of the poem’s creation. These critiques and reviews in print are deemed representative of the reading public, which include non-professional readers as well. In the first section, the main elements of the narrative which evoke a response from the reader—the characters and their actions—are discussed. The author presents three distinct accounts of the plot, from an innocent, almost fairy tale-like reading, to versions with darker, more ominous undertones. The main characters of the poem, Madeline and Porphyro, are introduced and contrasted with the supporting characters Angela and the Beadsman. Next, different ways of analyzing the poem are recounted, beginning with the earliest form of the “multiple reading process” that is prevalent in modern literary circles. Lastly, diverse explanations and experiences of the poem are detailed.

Keywords:   John Keats, St. Agnes, poem, readers, Madeline, Porphyro, Angela, Beadsman, reading process

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