Negative Capability

The use of negative capability in literature is a concept promoted by poet John Keats, who was of the opinion that literary achievers, especially poets, should be able to come to terms with the fact that some matters might have to be left unsolved and uncertain. Keats was of the opinion that some certainties were best left open to imagination and that the element of doubt and ambiguity added romanticism and specialty to a concept.

The best references of the use of negative capability in literature would be of Keats’ own works, especially poems such as Ode on a Grecian Urn and Ode to a Nightingale.

4 thoughts on “Negative Capability”

  1. I equate negative capability with a particular brand of religious Faith…..Having Faith is having an open mind. Having Faith is the ability to not look for Absolute Truths or
    over riding principles. Having Faith means respecting the Mystery. Faith is in opposition to Belief. Belief nails one to the floor. A person is not likely to believe something that doesn’t jibe with her preconceived notions, her prejudices. Belief is a prop for ones prejudices. Faith is an openness to the Universe. Faith is negative Capability.

  2. The end of…
    Exactly like the end of Inception, Lost and the original Total Recall. Open for imaginative interpretation. Very UNLIKE anything written by M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Signs, The Village) where all the answers are clearly given.

    1. I would add, as example, that the Star Wars prequels suffer from not embracing negative capability by trying to remove the uncertainty around the mechanism of the force with midichlorians. A good story invites the consumer to fill in the missing pieces with one’s imagination; thereby making a story complete only once it’s consumed.

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