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Keats and Embarrassment$
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Christopher Ricks

Print publication date: 1984

Print ISBN-13: 9780198128298

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198128298.001.0001

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Darwin, Blushing, and Love

Darwin, Blushing, and Love

(p.50) III Darwin, Blushing, and Love
Keats and Embarrassment

Christopher Ricks

Oxford University Press

Charles Darwin wrote at length about blushing and made it the concluding chapter of his book on The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. For Darwin, it was the quintessential human expression, far more so than smiling or laughing: ‘Blushing is the most peculiar and the most human of all expressions’. Romanticism was naturally fascinated by the blush. Anybody who would write of love must deal intelligently and sensitively with the possibilities of embarrassment. The beauty of Byron's erotic poetry, as of Chaucer's, Marlowe's, and Dryden's (and of Samuel Beckett's prose), derives from coolness, from not raising the possibly torrid or hotly embarrassing any more than is necessary for a tacit recognition of its being elsewhere possible. John Keats is one of the very few erotic poets who come at embarrassment from a different angle of necessity: from the wish to pass directly through — not to bypass — the hotly disconcerting, the potentially ludicrous, distasteful, or blush-inducing.

Keywords:   Charles Darwin, blushing, love, John Keats, romanticism, embarrassment

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