Negative Capability within Kubla Khan Essay

Negative Capability within Kubla Khan Essay

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There are a myriad of critical theory lenses that can be applied and utilized to closely observe pieces of literature. One of these theories is John Keats’s Negative Capability theory which consists of an idea of “…when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason…” (Keats 968). Ultimately, this signifies that in poetry the emphasis be placed on the significance of inquisitiveness and the asking of questions of the life and scenery around one’s self, rather than placing emphasis on strongly searching for these answers. This theory can be applied to a multitude of works, but for these sakes and purposes what will be critiqued is Samuel Coleridge’s Kubla Khan. In a subtle way, Coleridge exemplifies this theory, while simultaneously negating it. Through the poem’s speaker’s vivid imagery and details of this dream-land, the poem creates this theory within the reader himself; this is caused by the inquisitive nature that the poem invokes within the reader.
This work includes an overabundance of descriptor language that creates a vivid yet simultaneously fragmented picture within the reader’s mind. This extremely fragmented perspective of this dream-world is what sparks that important sense of questioning within readers. Questions such as “Is this place actually real?” or “What does this place actually look like?” can arise within readers. The speaker’s details offer these vivid images that attempt to capture the true essence of this place, but fall quite short. For example, “The shadow of the dome of pleasure/ floated midway on the waves;” offers this image that readers can in no possible way actually see in their mind. This description is so magical and dream-lik...


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...eading. The audience has the choice to question while not actively seeking answers and just enjoy the work as a whole or readers can question and afterwards actively seek these answers within the work, which would not be embodying the Negative Capability theory. So, in the end, the choice of whether to actively utilize Negative Capability is up to the reader.



Works Cited

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. “Kubla Khan.” The Norton Anthology: English Literature. Ninth Edition. Stephen Greenblatt, eds. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012. 459-462. Print.
Keats, John. “Letters: To George and Thomas Keats.” The Norton Anthology: English Literature. Ninth Edition. Stephen Greenblatt, eds. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012. 967-968. Print.
The Norton Anthology: English Literature. Ninth Edition. Stephen Greenblatt, eds. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012. 460. Print.

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