Abstract

O'Donnell, "Three or Four Ways of Looking at an Urn"

In the undergraduate classroom the hypercanonized Urn needs first to be de-familiarized and re-presented as a dynamic, self-conflicted, and fruitfully perplexing artifact. Such an approach challenges a view of poetry that seems to be increasingly prevalent, according to which a poem is a more or less elaborate code and reading a process of discovering hidden meaning. Awakening students to a lively appreciation of the surface of a poem and to the possibility that the poem means exactly what (and everything that) it says can be an end in itself (in the introductory course) or can underlie other approaches, more concerned with historical, philosophical, or psychological approaches. This essay appears in _Ode on a Grecian Urn_, a volume of _Romantic Circles Praxis Series_, prepared exclusively for Romantic Circles (http://www.rc.umd.edu/), University of Maryland.