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Worm WorkRecasting Romanticism$
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Janelle A. Schwartz

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780816673209

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816673209.001.0001

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“Wherefore All This Wormy Circumstance?”

“Wherefore All This Wormy Circumstance?”

Chapter:
(p.189) Conclusion “Wherefore All This Wormy Circumstance?”
Source:
Worm Work
Author(s):

Janelle A. Schwartz

Publisher:
University of Minnesota Press
DOI:10.5749/minnesota/9780816673209.003.0006

This concluding chapter offers a provocatively brief examination of John Keats’s Isabella; or, the Pot of Basil (1818/1820) and Charles Darwin’s The Formation of Vegetable Mould, through the Action of Worms, with Observations on Their Habits (1881). Keats’s poem does not present actual worms. As a purely figurative device with which to identify the conditions of decay and dissolution that structure the poem, the poem’s pivotal question marks not a protest against its grotesquery but an endorsement of worm work as the defining trait of a new kind of romance built on and out of the ruins of the old. Isabella posits its new aesthetic sensibility by assuming only a wormy effect. Worms therefore inject revolutionary movement into Romantic texts without suffering from categorical limitations.

Keywords:   John Keats, Charles Darwin, worms, poem, aesthetic sensibility, romance

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