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Durham e-Theses
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Coleridge and the rhetoric of power: the conflict between Coleridge’s poetic theory and practice

Strub, Marcus Alexander (1995) Coleridge and the rhetoric of power: the conflict between Coleridge’s poetic theory and practice. Masters thesis, Durham University.

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Abstract

The purpose of this thesis is to investigate the poetry of S.T. Coleridge in relation to his idealist theories of the poetic imagination. According to his various writings on the function of the imagination, the act of poesis ought to reflect the internal principles of creation as manifested in nature. The primary imagination, as Coleridge defines it in Biographia Literaria, speaks the language of God; the secondary imagination (the medium for poetic creativity) strives to imitate this universal power within the language of men. Poetry is thus understood as the vehicle which activates the "whole soul", moving man towards a sympathetic appreciation of the world he inhabits. However, as I intend to demonstrate, Coleridge's poetic language proves consistently inadequate in providing a constubstantiality between the mind and nature. The arbitrary nature of words often undermine the poet's intentions, ironically providing an outlet for repressed desires and fears. This is reflected strongly in the nature of poetic diction which often achieves an artistic fluidity at the expense of theoretical conviction. By contrast, when Coleridge's poetry remains faithful to his views, the language is often forced and stilted. Modem critical theory, in its emphasis on the arbitrariness of the linguistic sign, can be useful in locating such a subversion of intended meaning within the romantic text. In my introduction, I shall discuss the generic term "romanticism " in relation to post-modernist literary theory m a manner which suggests that romantic discourse is already profoundly aware of inherit contradictions within its own creative process. Having established a correlation between romanticism and its twentieth century literary criticism, I shall investigate Coleridge's poetry in the terms of his own theory, which always suggests the duplicity of the literary imagination in its articulation of artistic distinctions (Imagination/Fancy; Imitation/Copy).

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:1995
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:09 Oct 2012 11:50

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