Keats's narrative poetry displays an acute awareness of the symbolic potential of interior spaces, and description becomes an important tool in the rendition of space. The focus on spatiality interacts in a number of ways with the stories in the poems, and hence Keats's narrative poems consist of complex relations between descriptive stasis and plot progression. To address this, I broach three ideas from Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's influential book Laocoön: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry from 1766: the economy of descriptive adjectives functioning as epithets; narrativized description; and text space at the service of narrative space. Each notion is supplemented with other relevant theorists (Georg Lukács, Marie-Laure Ryan, David Herman, and Brian McHale).

In particular, I interpret Keats's “Isabella; or, The Pot of Basil” from 1818 and “The Eve of St. Agnes” from 1820. The readings demonstrate how Keats makes use of description of interior spaces for multiple purposes: it serves as deliberate interruptions; it is narrativized, thematized, and semanticized; it is performed by a heterodiegetic narrator; it offers a poetic vision; and occasionally it reflects character psychology.

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