Professor's essay on John Keats recognized as one of the best of 2009

January 4, 2010

An essay by Brendan Corcoran, Indiana State University associate professor of English, has been recognized as the best essay of 2009 on second-generation romanticism.

Corcoran's essay titled "Keats's Death: Towards a Posthumous Poetics" came to the attention of the Keats-Shelley Association of America after it appeared in the summer 2009 edition of "Studies in Romanticism."

Earlier this month, Steven Jones, vice president of the Keats-Shelley Association, notified Corcoran that he had received the honor. Jones described Corcoran's work as "a broad and imaginative study of something we all thought we knew well but see fresh here."

Corcoran said he was taken off guard by the honor.

"I was very surprised and very pleased since at this point the essay is so disembodied" from me, he said.

Corcoran, a poet specializing in Irish and British poetry who claims he's "not a Romanticist," finished work on the essay in 2007 then set about the task of having it published. After it had been accepted for publication in "Studies in Romanticism," Corcoran thought he had finally put 19th century English poet John Keats to rest.

But Keats's poetry is a topic to which Corcoran seems indelibly tied.

During his years of undergraduate study at Yale University, Corcoran's interest in poetry repeatedly led him to Keats, he said. An undergraduate course had Corcoran analyzing Keats's "The Fall of Hyperion" as model of history, but after having finished that research Corcoran knew he had only skimmed the surface of the poet's work.

"That work provoked my interest in how poetry responds to death, mortality, memory and history," Corcoran said. "Those are issues I have been working on ever since."

When Corcoran continued on to graduate school first at The Johns Hopkins University and then Emory University, Keats again was the subject of much of Corcoran's significant research.

When he undertook writing the "Keats's Death" essay, Corcoran said his goal was to say all he had left to say about Keats. After the summer publication of his essay, Corcoran thought he had accomplished that.

But if the Keats-Shelley Association of America honor is any indication of the future, Corcoran and Keats may not be parting ways any time soon.

"I'm almost afraid to say it, but I think I'm done with Keats now," Corcoran said. "I think I can move on."

Contact: Brendan Corcoran, associate professor of English, Department of English, Indiana State University at 812-237-3142 or brendan.corcoran@indstate.edu.

Writer: Rachel Wedding McClelland, assistant director of media relations, Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University at 812-237-3790 or rachel.mcclelland@indstate.edu.