Essays in Romanticism

John Clare's Attempt to Save Poetry in "Don Juan: A Poem"

Essays in Romanticism (2014), 21, (2), 141–157.

Abstract

This article argues that John Clare's "Don Juan: A Poem" is an apt imitation of Byron in its deceptive attempts to both signify and deny the very notion of poetry. Though the tenor of Clare's later works seemingly conflicts with that of his earlier landscape poetry, the paradoxical "Don Juan" instances motifs from both the early and late works. Yet, the idealism of the very notion of poetry that the early Clare tries to keep out of the public's eye still exists in the polemical asylum work, "Don Juan: A Poem." Utilizing Julia Kristeva's binary of the semiotic and symbolic, I argue that Clare wishes to keep the semiotic energy of poetry separate from the formulative linguistic power of the symbolic. Clare's late poetry takes on a contentious and bombastic tone that contradicts what Clare actually posits as the idealism of poetry. Hence, Clare may be taking the attention of his readers away from the "true poesy" he desires to keep safe from the negativity of the public eye.

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Author details

Levin, Scott