‘Meaning in a text is created by the cultural context of the reader, not that of the composer.’   Do you agree ?   Justify your response in a discussion of TWO of the poems set for study.

The mastery of the poetry of John Keats is that his writing, while intensely personal, sustains a universality of ideas, thus enabling his poetic works to be appreciated across a range of cultural contexts. While some schools of criticism may argue against the influence of context, most critical views concur on the importance of the composer and the responder’s perspective.   Indeed as Ronald Bathes stated, ‘the act of reading re-writes a text’.   The influence of the cultural context of the responder and the ability of Keats’ poetry to be appreciated throughout the ages can be highlighted by an analysis of Keats’ poems, Bright Star and On First Looking at Chapman’s Homer using a range of critical schools of thought.

The analysis of Keats’ poem Bright Star using the dominant stereotypes of his society and a feminist interpretation highlight that a consideration of the cultural context of the composer and the responder is equally valid in the creation of meaning. Keats wrote this poem in the early nineteenth century, in a strongly patriarchal society, where his personal frustrations with ill-health and subsequently his battle to reconcile his sense of mortality, coupled with the realisation that his prospect of a future with the object of his desires, Fanny Brawne was unlikely were central to his concerns. The collision of these two contextual influences is reflected in the melancholic and at times regretful tone of the poem. Yeats’ poem Bright Star, however, when from a Feminist perspective interprets the composer’s attitude towards the persona in an entirely different manner.   A Feminist Critic sees cultural and economic disabilities in a ‘patriarchal’ society have hindered or prevented women from realising their creative possibilities.   Keats’ is the product of a patriarchal...