Brian Rejack and Michael Theune on Negative Capability’s 200th Birthday

RE: Keats’s 21-27 December letter to George and Tom Keats

While Keats began the negative capability letter back on 21 December, it was on this day (26 December) two hundred years ago that it seems he formulated the idea and the phrase. As he reports to his brothers, Keats was walking back from a performance of a Christmas pantomime at Drury Lane on the evening of 26 December when “at once it struck [him]” what was the nature of literary genius which he aspired toward and which he saw embodied in the work of Shakespeare.

Tomorrow we’ll learn more about the Christmas pantomime and its potential significance in shaping Keats’s thinking (from the final post in our negative capability celebration, by Brian Bates). But for today the KLP presents video of an event hosted by two of the KLP co-founders–Brian Rejack and Michael Theune–which was held at the Normal Public Library in Normal, Illinois back on 16 December. (For those of you not in the know–and why would you be–Normal, IL is so called because the university which resides there began in the mid-19th century as a normal institution: the name used for schools which trained teachers.)

Brian and Mike discuss a wide range of issues related to negative capability, including its appearance in pop cultural realms, its usefulness when wanting to throw some shade at Wordsworth, and, of course, today’s immediate context: the Christmas pantomime. Fittingly for the pantomime context, it helps that Brian and Mike are a couple of clowns!

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