John Keats: 'The Vale of Soul-Making'

Course Dates: 09/10/21 - 10/10/21
Time: 10:30 - 13:00
Location: Online
Keats pursued – vigorously and brilliantly – questions related to ultimate truths. We shall consider a representative selection of his poetry and letters, reflecting on how their creative insights can help to illuminate our own experience and aspirations.
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
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Full fee £59.00 Senior fee £47.00 Concession £36.00

This course has now finished

Course Code: HLT53

Finished Sat-Sun, day, 09 Oct - 10 Oct '21

Duration: 2 sessions

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What is the course about?

This online literature course offers the chance to explore Keats’s achievement in the context of his over-arching conception of the meaning and significance of human life. Rejecting conventional contemporary explanation, he famously called the world not a ‘vale of tears, but The Vale of Soul-making… A School instituted for the purpose of teaching little children to read… I will call the Child able to read, the Soul made from that School.’

To clarify the nature and objectives of Keats’s pursuit, we shall consider a representative selection of his poetry and letters, reflecting on the ways in which their metaphysical searching can speak in challenging and perhaps compelling fashion to twenty-first century readers.

This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
- Earphones/headphones/speakers.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.

What will we cover?

We shall discuss extracts from poems representative of Keats’s short but intense career, beginning with ‘Sleep and Poetry’ and concluding with the unfinished ‘Hyperion’ poems. Extracts from relevant letters will be considered alongside the poems.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

1. Demonstrate understanding of how Keats explored transcendental issues in both poetry and prose.

2. Appreciate both the evolution and the consistency of Keats’s thinking and style.

3. Identify various aspects of Keats’s life and circumstances which influenced his work.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

No particular prior knowledge will be assumed, but you will need to feel enthusiastic about the prospect of reading and discussing Keats's writing.. You will be interested in listening to – and learning from – the responses of other students to the works discussed.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

Teacher explanation; group reading and discussion. You will be provided with the class handout in advance, containing all the texts to be considered. You will gain most from the course if you are able to read this in advance, and perhaps to reflect further between the first session on Saturday and the second on Sunday.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

No, but you may wish to avail yourself of a well annotated edition of Keats’s poems and letters, in order fully to appreciate the context of the course extracts. Many editions can be recommended, but those of Edward Hirsch and Jeffrey Cox are currently easily available. John Barnard has also expertly edited the complete poems and selected letters in separate volumes for Penguin.

If you wish to explore the influence of mid-eighteenth-century poets on Keats, please see Peter Brennan’s 'The Sanction of Eternal Truth': the Poetry of Keats's Eighteenth-Century Forebears, scheduled for 13 and 14 November 2021.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

Please look for other poetry courses under History, Culture and Writing/Literature at

Peter Brennan

Peter Brennan is a poet, and was for many years Head of English at The Latymer School, Edmonton. He founded Visionary Company courses in 2005, and is Editor-in-Chief of Perdika Press.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.