The Keats-Shelley Podcast

Was John Keats’ epitaph writ in water, stone or invisible ink? A conversation with Professor Adam Smyth

February 10, 2021

What does it mean to writ(e) in water? And even more, what does it mean to write 'writ in water' on stone? Or is that in stone? These are all questions raised by John Keats' epitaph, 'Here lies one whose name was writ in water'. Which is why the Keats-Shelley Podcast called Adam Smyth, Professor of English Literature at Balliol College, Oxford, and an expert in Material Texts: or the study of people writing with weird things on weird surfaces.

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We began by asking Adam to describe what a 'material text' might be, and what it means to study them. As well as telling us about poems written in glass and invsible ink (lemon juice to you and me), he cast an eye over Keats' epitaph, and pondered the fine distinction between writing 'in water' and 'on water'. 

Visit the Keats-Shelley Blog for more Prize Resources, including poems, articles and podcasts.


Fans of Tom Philips' A Humument: stay tuned to the very end of the podcast for a little lighthearted homage. 

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This podcast was written and presented by James Kidd. The KS Podcast theme tune is ‘Androids Always Escape’ by Chris Zabriskie. Visit

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