A romantic and a samurai a comparative look at mortality and society according to Miyamoto Musashi and John Keats

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in English


Department of English


Advisor: Andrew Slade


John Keats, one of the most famous and frequently canonized British poets, has been the focus of enormous research. However, that research has typically focused on explications of his poems or discussion of his modes of thought in other pieces of British or sometimes American literature. Rarely has scholarship used Keats as an opportunity to look cross-culturally. The focus of this work is on creating a new context in for the work of British poet John Keats and the writer and samurai Miyamoto Musashi on the related subjects of death and truth in society. By examining them, both in terms of their writing and biographies, it is clear that neither author is complete without reading them in the context of a pluralistic discussion on death and society. By using both authors, a dialogue emerges on these subjects in which we can see a similarity in the human experience with truth and death as well as specific differences in their approach to what Musashi calls emptiness and Keats calls negative capability. By placing these two authors within each other's context, a new way of viewing their works emerges in that we see their works as individual struggles with human mortality as opposed to seeing them in their traditionally singular contexts and viewing them of universal theorists on the experience of dying. By applying theories which deconstruct society's influence over its members we can begin to understand the debate between Keats and Musashi on how people accept mortality. Furthermore, by examining the writing of these two authors in light of these theoretical perspectives, it is possible to see how these theoretical viewpoints began to play out in the lives of both of these artists. Finally, after looking at the diverging personal experiences of Keats and Musashi, we can again reconcile both authors through the idea of developing a pluralism of authorities and experiences on the subject of mortality.


Keats, John, 1795-1821 Criticism and interpretation, Musashi, Miyamoto, 1584-1645 Criticism and interpretation, Mortality in literature, Death in literature, Comparative literature European and Japanese

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Copyright © 2011, author