Negative capability is a phrase first used by the Romantic poet John Keats (1795-1821) in 1817 to describe the ability of the greatest writers to pursue a vision of artistic beauty, even when it leads them to intellectual confusion and uncertainty, as opposed to a preference for philosophical certainty over artistic beauty.
More Notes: John Keats
In accordance with Keats, “one who has the negative capability, is capable of being uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason”. Negative capability is also known as impersonality or objectivity. Although Keats was a writer in the age of subjectivity he had objectivity or impersonality. His negative capability is seen to a great extent in the poem named “Ode to a Nightingale”. Forgetting the stern realities of life, he shares the joy the Nightingale enjoys the joy of an ideal world in his imagination. Similarly in the poem called “Ode on a Grecian Urn” Keats is able to take joy. The Grecian Urn is a symbol of purity which teaches him to absorb the eternal value.
So, we can say that negative capability is the ability of a poet to keep himself and his emotions aloof from his writings.