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Keats scholar to discuss poem on memory

Karla Alwes, an emerita SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of English at SUNY Cortland and John Keats scholar, will lecture on how well the Romantic era poet expressed the concept of “memory” on Wednesday, March 30.

She will present “John Keats and the ‘Memory of Touch’ in ‘To Autumn’” at 4 p.m. in the Old Main Colloquium (room 220).

The lecture, which is free and open to the public, continues the Cultural and Intellectual Climate Committee’s year-long exploration on the topic of “memory.” The event is sponsored by the English Department.

Karla Alwes

The poems and letters of Keats, who died in 1821 at age 25, remain among the most popular and analyzed in English literature, in particular “Ode to a Nightingale,” “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” “Sleep and Poetry” and the sonnet “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer.”

Alwes is the author of Imagination Transformed: The Evolution of the Female Character in Keats’s Poetry (1993, Southern Illinois UP). Her many articles include “‘The Fall’ and ‘To Autumn’: The Final Relationship Between John Keats and Poetry,” in the journal Nineteenth-Century Literature (UCLA Press); and “The Alienation of Family in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein,” in the anthology Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, and Their Sisters (University Press of America).

She had this to say about her upcoming talk:

“Memory is contained within the poem through the poet’s recognition of the past, as he muses about the ‘songs of spring,’ which are the famous odes to the Grecian Urn and the Nightingale that precede his writing of the ode to autumn, the final major relationship between Keats and poetry, in which all is ‘over-brimming’ and the ‘warm days will never cease,’” Alwes said.

“The doubts and uncertainties of the odes that came before are now the plenitude that come from the touch of memory.”    

Her presentation also marks the inaugural Robert Rhodes Memorial Lecture, a series that will recognize long-serving members of the SUNY Cortland faculty as they retire.

Alwes joined the SUNY Cortland English Department in 1988, rising in rank to professor and serving as department chair from 2003 until 2009. The university in 2001 bestowed on her one of its highest honors, the Rozanne Brooks Dedicated Teacher Award. In 1995, the State University of New York Board of Trustees honored Alwes with a SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. In 2008, SUNY promoted Alwes to the rank of Distinguished Teaching professor. 

Robert Rhodes '53

Robert Rhodes ’53, a professor of Anglo-Irish literature, served on the SUNY Cortland English Department faculty from 1958 to June 1988. After he retired, Rhodes continued his close relationship with the English Department and the university for the balance of his life and served as an unofficial historian of the university. He died in 2016. The Robert Rhodes Scholarship was established in his name through the Cortland College Foundation.

For more information, contact Howard Lindh.

Photo by Giammarco on Unsplash