Sensuous Embodiment in <i>The Eve of St. Agnes</i>


  • Kathie Housser Memorial University of Newfoundland


John Keats, The Eve of St. Agnes, Madeline, sexuality, the senses, sensuality, the body, contrasts, religious imagery, Christian iconography


This article explores the embodied language Keats uses in The Eve of St. Agnes to capture the senses and emotions of his characters within a framework of contrasts such as life and death, heat and cold, and youth and age. Through a close examination of these and related pairings, which are so effectively established in the opening forty-one lines, this essay highlights the sensuality of Keats’s text, and focuses particularly on the often overlooked or ignored incipient sexuality of the young heroine, Madeline. By doing so, it demonstrates that the crucial scene between Madeline and Porphyro ought to be viewed as love-making between equals, rather than as a seduction.

Author Biography

Kathie Housser, Memorial University of Newfoundland

First-year Masters student in English at Memorial University of Newfoundland. General BA from McGill, 1968. After forty years in broadcast journalism, Kathie has found the adjustment from the world of journalism to academia somewhat challenging: she knows a story and a lead; she has some difficulty deciphering a thesis.