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Coleridge And The Relation In Between Poet And Critic

4946 words - 20 pages


Is it possible, fruitful, or confusing to view Coleridge's aesthetic ideas as fragments (parts) toward the composition of a kind of larger theoretical poem (whole)? In other words, can one use Coleridge's art criticism to comment upon his practice as a theorist? Are his aesthetic ideas applicable to his practice as a critic of the practice of poetic composition? Is it possible that some leverage could be obtained by torquing Coleridge's theoretical statements about poetry in particular and art in general to comment on his own compositional practice as a critic? Quite simply, is Coleridge's theory true to the ideals of his critical practice? The caveat here is that it is precisely my intention to answer these questions indirectly. The idea is to use these problems as the hub of a wheel of a widening set of questions whose fragmentary sections, like the spokes of the "old coach wheel," radiate outward from a central ambiguity (Genial 472). The method is guided by Adorno's thoughts on the subject of the essay itself, which he suggests "incorporates the anti-systematic impulse into its own way of proceeding and introduces concepts unceremoniously, 'immediately,' just as it receives them. They are made more precise only through their relationship to one another" (12). Though the argument appears to be circular it would be more accurate to say that it circulates, and thus reflects upon a process of reciprocal exchanges. One might say of Coleridge that his intuition unfolds over thinking, rather than under-standing.

The presentational aspect of the work of art works form. Form is never static, it is always forming and being formed ("forma informans"-- shaping form). Imagination takes on, spreads out and over, bleeds into all the other faculties as a shaping force. Imagination becomes autonomous. The poet is, therefore, an autonomous creator of forms, not an automaton merely re-creating already inherent forms. Form is always being formed. The key is composition (arranging parts in relation to one another and to the whole) because it leaves room for the poet to work out his imagination upon material forms. The activity of writing manifests "the conscious will" of the poet as active maker and not merely as passive recipient of inspiration. The act of composition then is an activation of intuition and self-consciousness leading to expressivity. Imagination is made manifest through the artistic creation which it actively forms. It is unseen strictly in the sense that circular patterns are in the "golden wheel of the chariot of the sun:" "Of all 'the many,' which I actually see, each and all are really reconciled into unity: while the effulgence from the whole coincides with, and seems to represent, the effluence of delight from my own mind in the intuition of it" (Genial 472). The key here is how much leverage one wants to allow Coleridge in the pressure he needs to place on the words "effulgence" and "effluence." The former...

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