Keats's Odes
A Lover’s Discourse
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160 pages / / 9781804290347

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A fresh, radical assessment of Keats’s odes that meshes the intimate with the critical

“When I say this book is a love story, I mean it is about things that cannot be gotten over—like this world, and some of the people in it.”

In 1819, the poet John Keats wrote six poems that would become known as the Great Odes. Some of them—“Ode to a Nightingale,” “To Autumn”—are among the most celebrated poems in the English language. Anahid Nersessian here collects and elucidates each of the odes and offers a meditative, personal essay in response to each, revealing why these poems still have so much to say to us, especially in a time of ongoing political crisis. Her Keats is an unflinching antagonist of modern life—of capitalism, of the British Empire, of the destruction of the planet—as well as a passionate idealist for whom every poem is a love poem.

The book emerges from Nersessian’s lifelong attachment to Keats’s poetry; but more, it “is a love story: between me and Keats, and not just Keats.” Drawing on experiences from her own life, Nersessian celebrates Keats even as she grieves him and counts her own losses—and Nersessian, like Keats, has a passionate awareness of the reality of human suffering, but also a willingness to explore the possibility that the world, at least, could still be saved. Intimate and speculative, this brilliant mix of the poetic and the personal will find its home among the numerous fans of Keats’s enduring work.


“In Anahid Nersessian's Keats's Odes: A Lover's Discourse, red life streams again through Keats's poems. It is a risky, passionate criticism that - in addition to yielding all sorts of insights into the man and his writing - tests what of her own life the poems might hold (and quicken). This is living in and through and with and against poetry. A brilliant and refreshingly unprofessional book”

Keats's Odes is brash, skeptical, and tender by turns, offering a fluctuating re-visioning of Keats which is firm in its convictions...Nersessian's prose is bold, irreverent, declarative, and feral. Hyperbole and slackness are deceptive: every phrase feels carefully pitched.”

“The book's intimacy, vulnerability and determination to provoke is true to Keats, and Nersessian's genuine feeling for his work is never in doubt. One can't help but be pleased that two centuries on, Keats's odes still inspire engagement and love.”

“This book claims to be 'about' Keats’s odes. And it is. But it is also about beauty and sadness and love and revolution and how the odes can help us to better understand these things. It is nothing short of a perfect book, one that understands how poetry can transform one’s life. Nersessian is on track to be the Harold Bloom of her generation, but a Bloom with politics.”

“This is an intense, often dazzling, original, illuminating, idiosyncratic, but also welcoming and welcome book. Offering trenchant, astute, often polemical and sometimes breathtaking readings of Keats's Odes - and simultaneously of love, politics, worldmaking, and self - Nersessian has written a propelled, impelled, impassioned work, truly in Keats's spirit.”

“The best book about John Keats published at the poet's bicentenary.”

“I've read Anahid Nersessian's KEATS ODES: A LOVER'S DISCOURSE a half dozen times now, and it just keeps getting better. Nobody's smarter than Nersessian, nobody's more humane, nobody's more searching, fearless, nobody's more provocative, nobody challenges and cherishes their subject this way. It is that thrilling sensation of meeting a new voice on the page you know you'll spend your entire life following.”

“Anahid Nersessian offers a radical and unforgettable reading of the British writer’s odes—one that upends our sense of his poetic project.”

“Intense emotion abounds in this literary blend of analysis and autobiography...In six essays that examine each of Keats's Great Odes, Nersessian tells a 'kind of love story' between herself and the poems.”

“Thinking through John Keats's six "Great Odes", Nersessian offers up six critical and autobiographical essays that work, in their own right, like odes. Keats's Odes is also a terse, stunning pastiche of Roland Barthes's "A Lover’s Discourse". In imaginative, lucid prose, Nersessian proves that criticism can be loving, literary art.”

Keats's Odes is a discourse on love as interpretive practice. Demanding, generous, precise, utopian, and unfailingly brilliant, Nersessian reinvents reading itself as a form of critical intimacy for our broken times”

“This book is a classic of a new genre, a love letter of literary theory, giving a desired political language to the left's long-quivering heart for the lyric and sensuous knowledge of Keats. We always knew he was the activist's Romantic, and now in articulate and radical analysis, we have an understanding of his poetic form that illuminates our unwavering passion for his Odes.”

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