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Insultes croisées: Byron, Keats et leurs critiques

Abstract : This paper deals with two British poets, both insulted by reviewers. Byron and Keats share the unenviable privilege of having being severely attacked by Scottish reviewers, on different grounds perhaps, but with the same cutting spite. When does the critical reading of a poem become downright insult? This entails several questions: what exactly is being insulted here, in other words which feature of the writer is attacked by the reviewer, and why is that an attack, thus exceeding the moderate, rational assessment of a poem? Moreover, the very words used for the insult deserve to be examined. Is form insulting in itself? Finally, why be so cruel to mere poets? To add a little spice, Byron answered his reviewers in a satirical poem he published, and the literary form is here again used as a vehicle meant to convey the insulting intent. On the contrary, John Keats failed to fight back, although he too chose satire to express his reaction in a private letter to his brother. He turned himself into the butt of his own satire, and signed the letter with the same words that had been hurled at him by the reviewers. Social background and education obviously account, at least in part, for these different reactions, and one does not respond in the same way when insulted depending whether one is Lord Byron or John Keats, an obscure apothecary boy. Byron had the last word, since he devoted one stanza of his Don Juan to praising the talent of John Keats, the “poor fellow” who was “snuffed out by an article”! Is this to mean that insults themselves can be deadly?
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Contributor : Sylvie Crinquand <>
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Sylvie Crinquand. Insultes croisées: Byron, Keats et leurs critiques. Thomas Bouchet, Matthew Leggett, Jean Vigreux, Geneviève Verdo. L'Insulte (en) politique. Europe et Amérique latine du XIXè siècle à nos jours, EUD, pp.229 - 238, 2005, Sociétés. ⟨halshs-00467702⟩



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