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June 1984
304 pages  

6 x 9
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The Poet-Physician
Keats and Medical Science
Goellnicht, Donald
A challenging reappraisal of Keats’ work, showing the distinct influence of six years of medical training in his writings.

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Donald C. Goellnicht is professor of English and Cultural Studies and associate dean of the School of Graduate Studies at McMaster University.
“Donald Goellnicht has written a detailed account of Keats’s medical training. . . .He makes expert use of the medical knowledge of the time and also of the particular views of the doctors whose lectures Keats attended. Then in four well-argued chapters he discusses the poet’s knowledge of chemistry, botany, anatomy, and pathology, and how this knowledge coloured the phraseology of his poems and letters. . . . This is an admirable work of scholarship, which is bound to affect all serious criticism of Keats’s work.”—Modern Language Review

“Professor Goellnicht’s book stands at the forefront of that quiet but persistent tradition of scholarship devoted to Keats’s medical training and its influence on his writings. . . . The Poet-Physician is the most comprehensive with regard to both the exploration of primary sources in Keats’s medical education and the application of that material to the language and conception of the poetry. . . .Goellnicht’s abundant evidence ought to stimulate, perhaps with the help of Foucault’s work on medicine and political and social control, a serious exploration in all of his poetry of Keats’s assertion that a poet is a physician to all men.”—Keats-Shelley Journal

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For six years of his brief like, Keats studied medicine, first as an apprentice in Edmonton and then as a medical student at Guy’s Hospital in London. His biographers have generally glossed over this period of his life, and critics have ignored it and denied the influence of medical training on his poetry and thought.

In this challenging reappraisal, Goellnicht argues that Keats’ writings reveal a distinct influence of science and medicine. Goellnicht researches Keats’ course work and texts to reconstruct the milieu of the early nineteenth-century medical student. He then explores the scientific resonances in Keats’’ individual works, and convincingly shows the influence of his early medical training.



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